• Why Certainty and Promises Aren’t on my Service Menu

    As a consumer, I want certainty. I want warranties. I want promises that whatever I’m spending my money on is going to be just what I want or need. 

    The word promise written in white chalk with a red heart substituted for the letter O

    If I’m buying a thing, I look for craftsmanship, sturdiness, warranties, or whatever sign of quality is appropriate to the thing I’m buying. For example, I’m not going to look for a warranty If I’m buying a shirt, but I am going to look at the stitching and the durability of the fabric in relation to the the things I’ll be doing while wearing it. A new washing machine, on the other hand, had damn well better have a warranty, a good energy star rating, and enough capacity to be able to get all my work and home laundry done in a reasonable number of loads.

    If I’m paying for a service, however, things are very different. Ok, there are some services where I expect consistent results like having my oil changed correctly or my hair cut the same way each time. But in many instances, I get uncomfortable when a provider makes too many promises. Especially if they’re making those promises before they’ve even seen me. 

    You see, real life is messy. Bodies are complicated, and our pains and problems are very rarely as clear cut as we’d like them to be. No one has all the answers.

    The Problem

    So what’s the problem with certainty? People. People are the problem. People are notoriously unique and complicated. Even identical twins aren’t completely identical in every single aspect of their beings. 

    Given that, can someone really guarantee that their service is going to have long lasting effects for every single person they see? Really? Every skin type, stress level, personality, muscle tone, body mass? 

    A few things that affect efficacy:

    • How much stress someone has
    • How well someone deals with their stress
    • How much trauma they’ve experienced
    • Other underlying conditions
    • Level of anxiety, worry, nervousness someone has
    • Level of trust in the provider
    • Physical comfort during the massage (it’s hard for a muscle to relax if it’s contracting to protect itself OR if it feels like it’s merely being petted)
    • The length of time someone’s been dealing with the problem their seeking help for greatly affects outcomes

    I’ve been a massage therapist for 19 years now and I can guarantee several things, but results aren’t usually one of them. I have a damn good track record, but no one bats 100%.

    The Downsides of Certainty

    • Certainty leaves no room for curiosity, and curiosity is key to problem solving.
    • Certainty doesn’t allow a provider to change course if they’re not getting the expected results. It doesn’t even allow them to admit something’s not working.
    • No single technique or pressure level is right for everyone. (That’s one of the reasons there are so many different techniques)
    • Pain is more complicated than most of us were taught in school.
    • Pain doesn’t always originate in the place you feel it.

    The Benefits of Uncertainty

    • You are less likely to be accused of not doing your “homework” or sabotaging your own progress.
    • You are much more likely to get an appropriate referral, if needed.
    • Your therapist is much more likely to spend time researching your issue and possible causes if their first approach doesn’t yield results.
    • Your therapist will be more flexible in their approach, “try harder,” and be more open to feedback if they’re not 100% sure of the thing causing your issue
    • You’re not stuck in a room for an hour with an arrogant a-hole. Unless you enjoy that. In which case, knock yourself out.

    Final Thoughts

    When I was in massage school, one of my teachers used to say, “The answer to every question is ‘it depends’.” She was right. There is no single therapist or single technique that can help every single person out there. There’s no single, unwavering cause for pain in any single location. I won’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep. I’ll tell you that if I can help we should see results in x number of sessions, that I’ve helped a majority of clients with your pain pattern, but rest assured, I won’t guarantee I’ll be able to help all the people all the time.