Ah, familiarity. It’s an easy mistake for any professional to make. We forget that what’s run-of-the-mill for us can be completely foreign to others. When it comes to looking after massage newbies, you’ll need to practice some communication skills. After all, the idea of getting partially naked, lying under a sheet or towel and communicating with a therapist may take a little getting used to. Let’s run through nine essential communication tips so that your new client can feel a bit more comfortable during their first massage experience.
The naked issue
When it’s time to disrobe, remember to inform your client to leave their underwear on – just in case they delight you with a surprise. Modesty issues will need to be addressed, too, such as informing your client to keep themselves concealed with a towel when moving around the room or changing positions. Being clear from the start is far less embarrassing for both of you than having to correct or explain this later…
This is a face cradle
Those outside the massage world won’t know what a face cradle is, so you’ll have to explain to your client how to place their face in the little hole in the table and make sure they are comfortable there. The same goes for explaining any bolsters or pillows under heads, feet or tummy. If you’d like your client to be lying face down, and under a sheet or towel, explain this to them in advance.
Let’s discuss temperature
Some people just don’t speak out and will put up with discomfort unless it becomes extreme. People also have varying temperature comfort zones. For a successful massage session, your client needs to be fully relaxed and not stressed about physical discomfort. With this in mind, make it a rule always to check the temperature with clients. A simple question, such as “is the room warm enough for you?” will ensure that this is covered from the start.
Be vocal about illness
If a client turns up to a massage session and is unwell (read: strong head cold, flu, stomach virus), you cannot massage them. Massage therapy has contraindications for some illnesses and in some cases it can make a client feel worse. It may also be uncomfortable for the client to be lying face down if they are congested with a head cold or flu. Finally, the last thing you want is a sick person in the room, passing on unwelcome germs to you for free! No one needs this. If the client is clearly ill, politely tell them to get some rest and reschedule for another time.
Does this hurt?
Let the newbie know that if they’re experiencing discomfort due to the pressure you are applying, they need to tell you about it. Painful treatments are not better treatments – a fact you need to make clear to your new client. One rule of thumb is to ask your client to give you a number out of 10 for the level of pain when you move to a new area of the body. Any score over six or seven probably means you should ease back on the pressure.
Explain the process
“What is wrong with this fool? I said my back was sore, not my hamstrings!”
Your client will be a lot more comfortable if he understands your objectives and your session plan. For example, if a client comes in with an tight lower back, tell them that you will be concentrating on the lower back, but will be warming up the body first, as well as working on co-contributors to lower back tension, such as releasing the glutes, hamstrings, psoas, and so on. Without communicating this to your client, they may lie there feeling frustrated that their key ailment is not being treated.
The man thing
Men are blessed with a certain body part that may occasionally have a mind of its own. Sometimes this part of the anatomy will rise to attention, even while the client is asleep. If this happens during the massage session, the best thing to do is just to ignore it and continue on with the massage. Of course, if this reaction happens in tandem with inappropriate behaviour or comments by the client, you should politely end the session, ensure that you are safe and point the person towards your policy on appropriate conduct or similar.
Massage cannot perform miracles! If someone is sitting at a desk eight hours a day and not exercising, a once a month rubdown is not going to rid him or her of all issues. You need to explain this to the client, and in conjunction try setting some homework that may improve results and give the client them more control of their health and any pain associated with their ailments. In this case, homework could consist of taking brief breaks during the working day to do some stretching or walking. Homework could also include suggestions about changing lifestyle habits, such as wearing high heeled shoes, or carrying heavy bags over one shoulder.
Harder is not better
Sometimes, a client is in pain and desperately wants you to push as hard as you can, with the belief that A: harder is better, and B: they want the biggest ‘bang for their buck’. Unfortunately, very deep massage can irritate the tissues and nerves, making many painful conditions worse. Explain this to the client, work moderately and get the client to relax and tune in to their bodies instead. After all, as beneficial as massage therapy is, massage is a process, not a magic bullet.
Sage Institute of Massage – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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