Common Mistakes Massage Therapists Make
Most massage therapists will make some mistakes in their practice over a lifetime. Proper massage techniques are important in the areas of: body mechanics, self-care, customer service, focus on a client, and awareness of a code of ethics. By understanding common massage mistakes in these areas, massage therapists can avoid burnout, increase client retention, and ensure the highest level of professionalism.
Massage Mistakes Made by Beginners and Professionals
Body Mechanics: While in school, beginning massage therapists tend to use improper body mechanics because they haven't become acclimated to how they should use their bodies for leveraged strength and balance. By using the correct flow, you can relieve your arms of early fatigue by combining full body movements during a massage. Techniques, such as, learning proper body mechanics and posture, can help you avoid any undue stress to your body, while concurrently providing your client with the best massage possible.
During a massage session, massage therapists should be attuned to how their client is reacting to pressure. Massage mistakes include errors in pressure, or not checking in with the client about his or her comfort. If you are applying more pressure than is comfortable to the client, they will tighten their muscles, restrict their breathing, and will be uncomfortable. When your client's body is tensed, you are only creating more stress - not relieving it. If your pressure is too light, the massage may be relaxing, but will likely not positively impact the muscles that the client wanted addressed. It is important to check in with the client about pressure to make sure your massage techniques are effective.
Self-Care: Common massage mistakes therapists make are that they do not take care of themselves as much as they should. Much like any extended physical activity, it is important for you to stretch before you begin a session. Keep in mind that while you'll be primarily using your arms, your entire body will be getting a workout as you'll be depending on your legs for counterweight, your back for strength, and your torso for core balance and posture. Of course, the primary complaint of massage therapists is that their arms, wrists and fingers hurt. Again, while this is normal, it can be avoided by stretching and using a proper flow and massage techniques. It is important to maintain proper stretching and strength exercise routines so that you avoid any symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause early burnout and fatigue.
One very important thing for therapists to remember is to routinely receive massage. Mistakes often made by therapists include forgetting the "self-care" portion of their profession, which attributes to a high level of industry burnout. Another important factor for massage therapists to weigh is staying current with the client experience – how does it feel to be on the table? What massage techniques work, and which aren't as effective? By receiving regular massages, you can maintain a focus on the customer perspective of the massage experience.
Customer Service: First impressions count in every industry, and this consideration applies to all massage therapists, even those with existing practices. At all times, you should strive to dress in appropriate attire, appear professional, and be well-groomed when performing massage. Techniques for checking your appearance would be to simply think, "Do I look like a professional?" While you should be comfortable in your clothes, you shouldn't wear jeans, a tee-shirt with logos, old sweatpants, etc. during a massage. Mistakes in appearance can leave a negative impression, or potentially make a client uncomfortable. A good industry standard is to wear clean, loose yoga or exercise pants or loose fitting khakis. Scrubs, a solid polo shirt or cotton t-shirt with a high neck is generally considered appropriate for massage. Therapists who are smokers in their free time need to avoid cigarettes and cigarette smoke while at work. Many clients are sensitive, or even allergic, to specific dyes and odors, and may be incredibly uncomfortable with the scent of tobacco, perfume, or even some strong deodorants. Because of this, it is also very important to use a hypoallergenic cream or lotion which performs the same as other lotions, and does not negatively impact your massage techniques.
Whether your client is a regular or has a first-time appointment, it is important to ensure that you greet your client as soon as possible, offer them a seat in a waiting room if you're running behind, and not keep them waiting for an unreasonable amount of time past their set appointment. It is crucial for all massage therapists to be professional, on-time, and courteous before, during, and after a massage. Mistakes can leave a bad first impression, and prevent a repeat customer. From a business standpoint, it's all about customer service.
Focus: While working with your client, it can be obvious when you are distracted and not paying attention to your client's needs or requests. Before going into the room, take a moment to let go of your mental to-do list, don't think about your next client, or anything that might distract you from your current client. Massage techniques should include not only posture and flow, but focus as well.
When meeting with your client before the massage, truly take the time to listen to them while you review and chart your S.O.A.P. notes. Look carefully over their intake form, and be sure to ask them about any specific problem areas or points of concern before a massage. Mistakes massage therapists commonly make are to either fall into a routine where they provide the same massage time and time again, or to ignore the client's requests for pressure / focus and instead only focus on what the therapist feels is important. At the end of the day, you should always provide a consistent level of service to all clients and make sure you focus and listen during massage. Techniques focused on customer service preserve your reputation as a therapist, and build and maintain customer rapport and business.
Code of Ethics: After novice massage therapists graduate from school, they may actually be very aware of the code of ethics and confidentiality that comes with a therapist-to-client relationship. But when a seasoned massage therapist becomes more comfortable in their practice, they may tend to forget these rules (even with yearly CEUs on the subject) and accidentally divulge client information, or begin an inappropriate personal relationship with a client receiving massage. Mistakes happen, but it is important to routinely assess your ethics. While it is imperative to develop a rapport with your clients, it is not appropriate to call them at home (unless to confirm an appointment), discuss their personal lives, or accept personal gifts whether directly or indirectly related to massage. Techniques involving consistent professionalism will ensure the success of your practice.
Additionally, working with a client means maintaining their right to confidentiality. During a session, massage therapists may be made aware of personal medical conditions or treatments - these should always be kept strictly confidential and private. It is not appropriate to go home and talk to friends or family about a client, even if their name remains anonymous.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
These massage mistakes are among the most common for all massage therapists, whether you are just beginning or have years of experience. By enrolling in continuing education courses, massage therapists can refresh their knowledge of ethics, body mechanics, and current massage techniques to stay up to date within the field and also promote their personal and professional development.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laurie Craig, the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Jerome Perlinski American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year award, is a respected health science educator and co-founder of Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia. She brings more than 25 years of varied experience to the massage school, combining her unique teaching skills, professional acumen, and passion for teaching with a comedic edge that students remember and embrace years after experiencing her classes. She also serves as a subject matter expert and test item writer for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and has written test items for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. For more details, please visit www.georgiamassageschool.com.