Massage therapy is kind of like pizza - even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. A relaxing treatment in a quiet room is not too hard to find. But what about a therapeutic massage that alleviates chronic back pain? Or a targeted lymph massage that immediately clears a sinus headache? It's not until you are experiencing pain that a top-notch massage therapist truly becomes important.
The purpose of this guide is to help you find the right massage therapist for your needs, especially if you are looking for a therapist who can get to the root of your discomfort and provide restorative care. Consider the following as you begin your search:
1. Be high maintenance.
It is totally okay to be "picky" about technique. Be very specific about what you want out of your massage. Let your massage therapist know up front what level of pressure you prefer and which areas of the body you would like them to focus on. Communicate your needs throughout the massage, as well. Your massage therapist should respond promptly when you say things like, "The pressure is too intense there. Can you go lighter for a few minutes so I can breathe a bit?" or "That's a little light for me. could I get more pressure in that spot?" If the therapist does not respond to your requests, or seems dismissive, then don't go back again.
2. Expect your pain to diminish in 3-4 visits.
It's unfair to expect the chronic pain from a decades old injury to go away after your first visit, but you should expect to see some relief within a few sessions. If you are not seeing any improvements, or the massage therapists insists that "it's normal for things to get worse before they get better," then seek treatment elsewhere.
3. Is the therapist certified in any other modalities or specialties?
Other modalities might include sports massage, prenatal massage, lymphatic drainage, or cupping. A therapist that has various tools in their massage tool box can customize the treatment to meet your specific needs. When multiple modalities are combined in a single session, the massage becomes a therapeutic treatment rather than a run of the mill trip to the day spa.
4. Does the therapist keep SOAP notes?
While not absolutely necessary, if your massage therapist keeps SOAP notes they will be better prepared to treat what is hurting you most when you come in for follow-up visits. They can quickly look back at their charts to see which part of the body they worked on last session and where to pick up for the next treatment. This allows the therapist to help you see faster progress in pain resolution.
5. Does the therapist give you homework and feedback?
It is easy for the therapist to tell you come back in a week or a month for further treatment. But the real healing happens when the therapist teaches and empowers you to take charge of your health when you are out of treatment. A good massage therapist knows that incorporating stretching, mobility, and other recovery techniques on your own between treatments will bolster the healing effects of your massage, and thus he or she should give you information on these techniques to take home.