The difference between a good massage and a GREAT massage often lies in tiny details that the therapist may not even know to exist. Maybe they weren’t taught to stretch to the soft end feel or to take a massage stroke all the way to the end of the limb. Clients may not know what’s missing, but they can often feel it. For this reason, massage therapists should make sure they regularly find themselves in the position of massage client. Massage therapists receiving massage have the opportunity to learn new moves while simultaneously making notes to refine the techniques they already use.
At the end of a recent visit to a new therapist, I asked, “Would you like a few tips to go with your tip?” I had received a wonderful massage and was happy with the service, but had my therapist made a few small adjustments; it could have been AMAZING. Here are some of the suggestions I find myself making most often:
Work the Whole Limb
Let’s say you like to work the client’s feet in the supine position, but you start the massage with the client in the prone position. When you work the legs, be sure to include a few strokes on the feet as well. Don’t stop the leg work at the ankle and make the client wait until you flip them over to touch their feet. When this happens (the same goes for hands when working the arms or the arms when working the back), the area that is “waiting” for touch can feel left out. This can be distracting for the client and diminishes the fluidity of the therapy.
Complete each Massage Stroke
A massage stroke that ends in the middle of a muscle can feel incomplete. Strokes that complete at a joint or the end of a limb often feel more effective. The same goes for movements from medial to lateral or vice versa. I notice this most on the thighs, where therapists will sometimes only work from the middle of the Quads in front to the middle of the Hamstrings in the back! The adductors get completely left out, and they feel the neglect! Properly draping the client by lifting the leg and tucking the sheet under will give them the security they need while safely exposing the inner thigh to make it accessible for you to work.
Avoid Using the Point of Your Elbow
The ulna forms the point of the elbow slightly behind the elbow joint. When you use the elbow point to create pressure, especially if you are pulling your elbow backward through the tissue, you are putting yourself in jeopardy of injury. Over time, this type of movement pushes the ulna out of the joint and can cause your elbow to start locking or creating other issues. Not to mention, the elbow is pokey, hard, and can make it difficult to control pressure – none of which makes for a good experience. Use the flat part of the ulna slightly distal to the elbow instead. This area still gives you the ability to pinpoint targeted areas without putting yourself in jeopardy.
Clarify the Type of Therapy the Client is Requesting
There is a big difference between a deep tissue massage, a Swedish massage, and a Lomi Lomi massage. If you offer various services at different price points, it is important to clarify which service the client is requesting and the cost for that session. If the client schedules a Swedish massage yet receives the more expensive deep tissue massage, it will be difficult to charge them the higher price if you haven’t clarified the difference and allowed them to agree to the price increase. Additionally, a big part of client satisfaction is the client feeling like they got what they wanted. If they came in for a Swedish massage but receive a deep tissue therapy (without agreeing to it) instead, they may leave feeling unsatisfied.
Everyone has their own unique style of providing massage. These are just a few things that I have found to take a session to the next level. What suggestions do you have for other therapists that could help them refine their finishing touches?