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Anitra Brown

True Confessions of A Massage Therapist

By May 19, 2009

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Have you ever asked for a deep tissue massage, then changed your mind five-minutes in because it hurts too much? A former massage therapist told me that's how some therapists get out of ANOTHER deep tissue massage when they've done too many in a row. "They use too much pressure, so the person says, 'I guess I don't want deep tissue after all.'" She never did it, but she worked with plenty of therapists who did.

I knew another therapist who tried to put people to sleep so she wouldn't have to work as hard. (They call this kind of relaxation massage a "fluff and buff.") The most dreaded customer is the one whose body is hard as a rock and totally resistant to massage....and they keep telling the therapist to use more pressure. "I broke myself on one guy, and I swore never to do that again," she said.

The best massage is based on communication between the therapist and the client. Talk about what's going on with your body and what you need before the massage, and give them feedback during it. But it's also good to know when to be still, and just experience what's happening in the moment.

May 19, 2009 at 11:15 pm
(1) Courtney Lewis, LMT says:

This is a good reminder to everyone, do your research! Massage therapists are required to hold a license in most states.

To find a quality massage therapist who is professional, courteous, knowlegable, and who will never compromise a client’s safety or comfort, be sure to look for the following things:
*LMT – Licensed Massage Therapist
*CMT – Certified Massage Therapist, also may refer to Clinical Massage Therapist
*NCTMB – Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
*AMTA – Member of the American Massage Therapy Association

Good resources:

(Your state should have something similar.)
And of course, the Better Business Bureau

May 19, 2009 at 11:22 pm
(2) Courtney Lewis, LMT says:

Trying the links again!

AMTA’s Find A Massage Therapist

License Lookup (State of Illinois) Your state should have something simliar

May 20, 2009 at 9:27 am
(3) Ted Murphy says:

Thanks for lifting the covers. I find articles on “what to watch out for” particularly interesting.

May 21, 2009 at 1:51 pm
(4) Jan says:

Wow, that is a real eye opener. Shame on those spa schedulers for not knowing ahead of time if it is deep tissue or swedish. That is not good to have deep tissues back to back. And the therapist purposely going too deep in order to get them to change to a swedish from the start – how bad is that? I went to a wonderful spa in Arizona and specifically asked for deep tissue, but then when I had the therapist in the room I told her I really just wanted a FIRM swedish – not stokes with blah strength….she and I laughed and I got someone who gave a GREAT firm swedish massage. i don’t like fluff and buff types – my muscles need to have attention! good light on this interesting topic.

May 23, 2009 at 6:59 am
(5) Lynn S.B. says:

I read Jan’s comment, and felt I had to comment myself. As the owner of a day spa, and frequently the scheduler, I am well aware of the inability of most (as much as 80%) of new clients to decide, at the time they call for an appointment, what kind of massage they want. They simply cannot articulate a choice. It is not the scheduler’s fault that clients cannot make a choice among modalities offered, regardless of how well those choices are presented by the scheduler when the appointment is made, because many people, especially massage novices, just don’t know what they want or need, and it must be left up to the client and LMT at the time of the appointment. Don’t blame the scheduler – this is the client’s responsibility. All the schedulers here advise the LMTs, at the time an appointment comes in, of what the appointment is for, how long it is, if it’s a repeat client, and, briefly, of that LMT’s schedule for that day as it appears at that time. It is then up to the LMT to decide whether she wants to take another appointment, for deep tissue or not. And please be aware that, here at least, when a massage novice calls for an appointment, they are told that a Swedish massage is what they should have, but that the LMT will work on whatever knots they discover. If, when the client shows up, her intake form reveals she’s a serious body builder, or has had an injury and wants therapy for it, the LMT must roll with it; clients really fail to reveal important information about themselves until they get the intake form, and sometimes not even until they are in the room on the table. Shame on you for trying to shoot the messenger – place the responsibility where it belongs.

May 24, 2009 at 2:19 am
(6) Angie says:

If a massage therapist cannot communicate with a client and determine what the client needs from some basic information (along with some “touch information”), then the therapist needs more training…or they probably aren’t worth much. I have been to many (varied) massage therapists and have provided them with what I feel is ample information…and have often received what I feel is a less-than-ideal massage. I believe an LMT who charges $100 or so for an hour massage should have very good verbal as well as tactile communication skills to enable them to give their client the best massage for their money. (Also, any “fluff and buff” game playing is a complete cop out. Now that I’m aware of this tactic, I’ll be sure to reflect my suspicion of such behavior in future tips!)

May 24, 2009 at 9:55 am
(7) Carolyn says:

Lynn, EVERYONE is responsible for knowing what the patient wants or needs. Again, if the person can’t offer the right choices than more training is needed.

May 25, 2009 at 12:55 am
(8) Judi says:

I have seldom received a deep tissue massage of any value except with a male therapist. That upper body strength really makes a difference! I have also learned to schedule early appointments, before the therapist is worn out. It’s hard work, and I applaud all massage therapists for their dedication, art and skill.

May 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm
(9) Jan says:

I stand behind my comment and I schedule as well and YES you should be able to articulate the big differences between Deep Tissue and Swedish. If you cannot, find someone else to schedule for you! You said “new” clients have a hard time deciding – that’s easy – new? always Swedish! If their first massage is a detailed, deep, not flowy massage – they will most likely not be back. Sorry, but just taking down names and phone numbers is not enough – get as much client preference as you can and your customers will really appreciate the extra time you took to take care of their specific needs. ;-) By having the front desk person in charge of scheduling – not the LMT (deciding whether they want to take it or not) then you will be booking more efficiently.

June 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm
(10) Anitra says:

Thanks to everyone for commenting! I also want to refer you to the follow-up blog, “What A Deep Tissue Massage REALLY Is” with more comments from the same therapist (who recalls occasionally putting an elbow in the hamstring herself.)

June 8, 2009 at 4:38 am
(11) Dee says:

Don’t piss off the cher foe you might get spit in your food. Don’t piss off your therapist or you might get an elbow…god knows where. Manners go a long way lol

November 3, 2010 at 1:30 am
(12) Andrea says:

Yeah I don’t like it when clients sign up for a swedish then tell me to dig in as hard as I want. I don’t mind doing dt but you have to be willing to pay for it if you want it. More therapist need to start explaining DT massage better too. It’s impossible to give a true full body DT in one hour.

February 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm
(13) Melissa says:

A mix of Med to Deep Swedish, trigger point and structural integration, if done slow and flowy and just the right depth will put me in such a state of relaxation that I drift in and out of sleep, which is what I prefer. My muscles get the attention they need and I de-stress. Not all sleep is bad!

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