Massage Expectations v Reality

Massage Expectations v Reality

As a therapist I’ve heard a lot of clients feedback about treatments with other therapists that haven’t been particularly positive, to the point that they are then feeling nervous about having a massage again. The reasons for their previous experience having been poor, varies from the therapist not giving the full time, or it felt like they couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into the treatment, or maybe that they came out of the massage feeling like they’d had nothing done. Certainly there seems to be a lot of confusion with clients about the difference between a Swedish, a deep tissue and a sports massage, and unfortunately explanations of this by unqualified staff in some places offering massage, really doesn’t help matters. Sometimes a client has every reason to be upset about their experience, for example, if they want a relaxing Swedish and the therapist doesn’t stop talking. Sometimes it may come down to clients expectations being too high, especially with new clients, but part of the therapists job is to answer questions and explain what can be expected. 

How do you avoid going for a treatment, expecting to come out feeling like new, but instead your hair is all clumped together in a greasy mess from residual blobs of lotion and your face is marked with the pressure from the face ring, rather like when you take your goggles off after scuba diving. As a client, how do you know if your expectations are too high? 

Well you can ask the therapist as many questions as you like, but here is a brief guide to some common issues:-


 • EXPECTATION – “my sports massage is going to be some relaxation time for me” 

REALITY – Just because it’s called a massage, doesn’t mean it will be relaxing. If you want pure relaxation time then book a Swedish and your expectations will be met, but trigger point or sports massage can be uncomfortable because it is addressing areas that often have a lot of muscle tension or scar tissue.

 • EXPECTATION – “my massage will get rid of all of my pain”

 • REALITY – Sometimes clients will have some pain still after their treatment and this can be for various reasons. It is possible to have a "healing crisis" where the symptoms temporarily appear to get worse following the massage, but this is the body healing itself. In sports treatments, post massage soreness is common because the resistance in the muscles is really being challenged, so it's similar to when you go to the gym for the first time in ages. Therapists vary a lot in terms of knowledge and skill so it is possible that they didn’t really have experience with your particular issue. It also depends what the issue is and how long you’ve had it. 

Pain may still be felt, for example, if you’ve had:-

 - A long term medical issue that will more than likely never be resolved eg. spondylitis

 - If you’ve had a moderate muscle strain at the gym but not given it an appropriate time to heal before having a treatment 

- If you have a massage treatment at the wrong time, eg. a full on sports massage 12 hours after doing a triathlon

 - If you’ve had a stubborn issue, eg. a frozen shoulder, which has not responded to physiotherapy – it won’t be fixed in one massage session


 - DURATION OF THE PAIN/ISSUE– chronic conditions will be much harder to resolve

 - PAIN INTENSITY – severe pain will be much harder to ease, because aside from the actual cause of the pain, the clients tolerance level will be much lower 

- ADDITIONAL MEDICAL ISSUES that can’t be fixed with massage eg. a grumbling appendix, infection, kidney stones. Such issues will be felt in the muscles but the associated pain won’t be relieved with massage

 - STRESS LEVEL - stress impacts on muscle tension and the muscles resistance to release tension. Certain types of massage are more conducive to stress, whereas some may have the potential to induce further stress, thus being ineffective. 

- PERSONALITY – those of us who are natural worriers, people pleasers or have low self esteem, have more difficulty relaxing, so not only will tension relief will be more difficult, but it will also return more quickly

 - THERAPIST – finding a therapist who is experienced and has a strong knowledge base is always important. Being treated by a Swedish trained therapist who worked in a hotel spa for 6 months will not be a good choice if you’re a diabetic with a frozen shoulder and compressed nerve

 - TIME – plan ahead and arrive for the treatment with 10 minutes to spare. That way you won’t arrive feeling like an overly stressed out sweaty mess, worrying about whether or not you’re going to get a parking ticket because you had no time to look for a proper space. This is extra important if going somewhere that gives you forms to fill out before your treatment, because you dont really want to spend 15 minutes of your massage time filling out a form. 

 - PERSONAL CARE & CLOTHING – I’ve had so many clients apologise that they didn’t shave their legs or they’re wearing their skanky underwear. Newsflash!!! I’m really not bothered and no other good therapist will be, but if it’s that much of an issue for you that you’ll be stressing out on the massage table thinking that you look like Bridget Jones or a woolly mammoth, then, again, take a little time to plan ahead. If you’re stressing out about that spot of cellulite on the back of your thigh or that your stomach is bloated out to look 6 months pregnant due to your IBS and you’re constantly in need of the worlds biggest fart, stop panicking. We’ve seen it all, smelt it all and heard it all many times before. You’re really no different other members of the general public that come for a massage and we’re not going to remember specifics about your bodies.

 - COMMUNICATION – if the pressure isn’t right, or you find the music really annoying, or you feel like a polar bear because it’s so cold, tell the therapist so that the issue can be fixed and you can enjoy your massage.