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  • 15 Things Your Massage Therapist Won’t Tell You (But I Will)

    Keeping quietBecause I’m feeling lazy today, I decided to write a mostly tongue-in-cheek post about things your massage therapist may not tell you. Warning: Contains brutal honesty aimed at less then 1% of massage clients. It’s mostly a backwards way of telling you how awesome you are if you don’t do these things or are concerned that you might. Hint: If you’re concerned… you have nothing to worry about. Believe me.

    Top 15 Things You Need to Know

    1. When we tell you to take your time getting up after the massage, we don’t mean it literally. We really just mean that we don’t want you to jump right up, throw on your clothes and immediately undo any relaxation response that began during the massage. We probably have a client after you and need to change the sheets and clean up before we can take them to the room. We also want to be able to talk to you for a few minutes after you get up to see how you’re feeling. Oh yes, and we need to collect your payment. When you take 20 minutes to get dressed and come out of the room, you throw our schedule off for the rest of the day.
    2. It’s OK to clip your toenails more than once every 6 months. When you want a foot massage but have inch long toenails, we get scratches on the instruments of our profession – our hands. Not good. Those long toenails also tend to snag the sheets, especially when you’re lying face down and digging them into and moving them around on the bottom sheet.
    3. We love when you bathe with soap & water the morning of your appointment, but please wait until you leave our office before you bathe in your perfume. Most massage rooms are fairly small, that’s why they feel so cozy. Your scent quickly fills the room, replacing all available oxygen with a synthetic chemical smell. And, if the last client also bathed in perfume, your smells are now mixing and creating a toxic gas in the room. It’s difficult to focus all my attention on relieving your muscle tension and pain when I’m trying not to gag on noxious fumes. Also, our fibromyalgia clients often have multiple chemical sensitivities and our migraine clients are often triggered by chemical scents.
    4. It really is OK to use lotion on your dry flaky skin. Even though we will be applying an oil, creme, or lotion to your body during the massage it is meant as a lubricant only; not as a free moisturizing treatment. When you don’t use lotion on your dry skin, the lubricant we use gets absorbed fairly quickly. This means we have to stop what we’re doing to reapply the oil/creme/lotion so that we don’t pull your skin or hair. The more time we spend applying and re-applying lubricant, the less time we have to actually work on your tight muscles, which is what you’re here for.
    5. If you need to use the restroom when you arrive, please use it right away. Don’t wait until we call your name in the lobby or get you back to the massage room to decide that you have to go. (If we whisk you back to the room as soon as you arrive, this obviously doesn’t apply.) There is really no good reason for an adult to not know that their bladder is getting full. It irks us; it irks us bad when you don’t take care of your basic needs while you wait for us to transition the room. If we took you back to the room on time or early, but the massage starts late because you waited until the last minute to decide to go, and we had to wait for you to “take care of business”, we will still end the massage on time.
    6. Your doctor can give you something to treat that nail fungus. That thick yellow nail that’s pulling away from the bed IS PROBABLY A FUNGUS! It can be spread to other areas of your body or to my hands. I won’t touch it. Wonder why your massage therapist doesn’t massage your feet at all or else massages everything BUT your toes? It’s probably because you appear to have a nail fungus. Get it tested by a physician. If it turns out to not be a fungus you can happily tell your therapist who will then be much more inclined to massage your feet &/or toes.
    7. Your doctor can also give you something for that athletes foot, ringworm, etc. If you fail to disclose a contagious skin condition to us, we get angry. While we are trained to recognize many types of contagious skin disorders, we cannot diagnose them, nor can we see them particularly well in the low light of the massage room until it’s too late. If we catch a contagious skin condition from you, we will be unable to work until it is cleared up. You got your massage, possibly spread that condition to other areas of your body, and deprived us of a livelihood. Congratulations! You now have a cheesed off massage therapist who will probably refuse to work with you ever again. Had you disclosed your condition, we would have happily avoided the contagious area while giving you a massage, and we would have been more than willing to work with you again.
    8. Yes, we did smell that. We may not have heard it but, yes, we smelled it. They’re not called “silent but deadly” for no reason. It happens. If it happens for the entire session, however, you may want to get checked by a doctor. That said, if certain foods always give you smelly gas, we appreciate it more than we can say if you would avoid those foods for a couple of days prior to your massage. Please and thank you.
    9. If you walked in of your own accord, I don’t believe that your pain level is a 10. On an objective scale, a level 10 is the worst pain, it will cause you to pass out. Even on the more subjective scale that we’re all used to, a 10 should render you nauseous and unable to speak coherently. When your pain is so bad that you can barely speak, you can’t concentrate enough to drive and your walk is turned to something that’s more like a shuffle. Telling us you have a pain level of 10 after we hear you chatting on the phone or telling jokes makes us think that you either a) have NO idea what real pain is, b) are prone to exaggeration, or c) are a hypochondriac. In any case, we won’t take your complaints very seriously. So, if we ask you to rate your pain and your first inclination is 10, you should probably say, “Well, I’m not sure but it hurts so much that I’m unable, or limited in my ability, to do [name of movement/activity].” Telling us how your pain limits you will get you a better massage and better pain relief than by giving us a higher pain rating.
    10. Deciding that you’d rather go to the beach is not a good reason to cite when you call to cancel the morning of your appointment. When you say things like that, we think you’re a flake. Yes, we appreciate that you cancelled instead of just not showing up. You have no idea just how much we appreciate that. And sure, you very well may have decided that you’d rather go to the beach. But please remember that there is honesty and then there is brutal honesty. The latter is rarely called for. It’s much better to use the generic excuse that something came up than to say you’re not keeping an appointment with a professional (us) so that you can go to the beach.
    11. We are not psychic. We would like to be, but we’re not. Unless you tell us that you have pain in a specific area, we have no way of knowing that the area hurts. Tight muscles don’t always translate into pain in that muscle or even the surrounding area. If you tell us that you have an area that hurts, we can look for the cause and you, therefore, stand a much greater chance of having your pain relieved.
    12. We are also not miracle workers. No matter how good we are, and some of us are very good, we cannot rid your body of 40 years of stress and tension in just one hour. Also, if we give you “homework” such as stretching, taking a warm bath, or icing, please do it; your massage results will last much longer. If you don’t take any responsibility for your health, there is only so much that we can do for you.
    13. Constant quizzing is a major distraction. Quizzing us throughout your massage about exactly which muscle we’re working on, why we’re working it (A: because it’s contributing to your pain in some way), and why we’re using the technique we’re using (A: because it’s releasing the tension in your muscle) only serves to distract us. We hope that it is simply curiosity that drives your non-stop stream of questions, and that you’re not questioning our competence. However, either way, it takes us out of our hands and puts us into our heads. Remember, most of us are kinesthetic, we follow the pain and tension patterns in your body by focusing on how your muscles feel and how they react to our work. We are more than capable of answering your questions, but if you want a focused session and maximum relief, please ask us only the most burning questions during the massage and save the rest for after. You may find that by getting out of your head (all the questions) and into your body (feeling the massage progress through your body) that some of your questions will answer themselves and others will no longer matter.
    14. We are not lying when we tell you that it is outside the scope of our practice to answer your question or do what you ask. In most cases, “outside the scope of practice” also translates as “illegal”. For instance, it is illegal for a massage therapist to make adjustments to your vertebrae or to any other bone; sometimes they move on their own when we release the muscles but we cannot honor your request to intentionally adjust your back for you. Likewise, we cannot offer dietary advice (unless we are also a registered dietician or nutritionist), except as it directly relates to the muscles and even that must stay pretty general. So we can say something like “muscles function best when they get enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium” but we cannot tell you how much of any of those to consume or in what form. Insisting that you won’t tell anyone doesn’t help. You may not care if we breach the code of ethics of our certifying or licensing body but we do; certifications and licenses get revoked when we get caught doing things like that.
    15. Don’t apologize for falling asleep during the massage. It means that you were comfortable and relaxed enough to drift off to sleep. We take it as a compliment when you fall asleep, whether you mean it as one or not. Please don’t burst our bubble by telling us you only fell asleep because you were completely exhausted.

    So there you have it. For a lazy post, this turned out longer than I expected so I won’t blather on any more, except to ask you to share. You know the drill.

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