How to Choose a Massage Therapist
Choosing a massage therapist can be a very personal matter. Lying on a table in your skivvies to allow a stranger to work on you can be daunting. Whether you’re new in town and looking for someone to build a long lasting therapeutic relationship or you simply over did it on your most recent hike and need immediate relief, here are some tips to help you choose a therapist that’s right for you.
Find a Therapist
How much education does your massage therapist have? In many states, massage therapy is regulated, which usually means therapists are required to have a minimum number of of trainings hours, but for those states that don’t regulate massage (currently Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Wyoming) it is especially important to ask about your therapist’s educational background before you make your appointment. If you live in a state in which massage therapy is regulated, you will want to make sure your therapist has the necessary certifications or licenses to practice in your state.
An educated and well-trained massage therapist will know which modalities and treatments are safe for you, and when to refer you to the appropriate medical providers when your needs can not be met through massage.
Place of Work/Location
Does your massage therapist operate out of a professional office or home? Or would you prefer to receive your session at a spa? What you choose can set the tone and dictate the kind of experience you will have. A therapist who operates out of a home will offer a different experience from a therapist who operates out of an upscale spa.
Types of Modalities/Treatments Provided
Are you mostly interested in relaxation and stress relief? Then you’ll most likely enjoy a Swedish massage.
If you’re fairly active and have various aches and pains associated with your activity, then you might want to consider working with someone who has sports massage, deep tissue or neuromuscular therapy training.
If you’ve been in an accident or are recovering from an injury, then you might want to find someone who does any or a combination of the following modalities: deep tissue, myofascial release, orthopedic massage, neuromuscular therapy, or medical massage.
Of course, it is always nice to find someone who is versatile and can address your concerns as they come up. Some days you might feel like you need to de-stress and unwind and other days you might have pain you need to work through. Consider the kind of work you think you’ll be needing in the future so you won’t have to hop from one therapist to another as your needs change.
Does your therapist offer hours that coincide with yours? If you have a nine-to-five job and your therapist doesn’t work on weekends or evenings then you’ll have a hard time getting an appointment. Does your therapist offer online scheduling? If you’re on the computer a lot, then that can be an added convenience, allowing you to avoid phone tag.
After Your First Appointment
Once you’ve scheduled your appointment and completed your first visit, you still need to consider whether you’d like to continue working with your therapist.
Didyour therapist inquire about your health history and any current conditions you are currently being treated for? It’s important for a therapist to know if you’re dealing with health issues so s/he can tailor your session to ensure a safe and positive experience. For example, if you have high blood pressure and your therapist doesn’t know about it, a warm stone massage might elevate your blood pressure and lead to unwanted complications.
Did Your Therapist Meet Your Goals?
Did your therapist ask you what you wanted to get out of your session? Did s/he listen to you and was that reflected in the session you received? Please keep in mind that your therapist is not a mind reader. Room temperature, music, scents, and massage pressure are examples of elements that can be adjusted to each individual’s preference. You owe it to yourself and your therapist to communicate your needs throughout your visit.
Did your therapist offer suggestions for your continual self-care after your session? A good therapist will ask you for feedback and send you home with relevant stretches or suggestions that you can do on your own until your next visit.
Did You Like Your Therapist?
This may seem like a silly criteria but it’s important that you connect with and like your therapist. This is likely to be a gut reaction, rather than an analytical assessment, so listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel when you think about returning for another session.
If your first massage session with a new therapist didn’t work out perfectly, don’t panic. Just like any new relationship, it can take a few sessions before you establish a level of comfort with your new therapist. However, if you’re just not feeling it, keep looking until you find someone who feels right for you.
The benefits from massage are countless and you owe it to yourself and your body to work with someone whom you can trust and can build a lasting therapeutic relationship.