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The Importance of Finding the Right Massage Therapist for Your Needs

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I’ve spent the last few days pretty much glued to my couch. Hiding in the dark depths of my old room. Spending my time remembering all the good things in life.

Seriously, thank god for every bright moment I’ve ever had, no matter how big or small. Those little memories keep me going when I’m too out of it to even write. Too out of it to work on small projects or distract myself with Netflix.

Today, I tried something a little different.

As I laid on my couch, knowing my ice packs had failed me, questioning if maybe my antibiotics were to blame for this awful pain, wondering is this really all because I went to see a movie… I finally just laid flat on my back, found a “spa” playlist and put it on quietly.

For the first time all day, I was able to drift a little bit into a soft sleep. After a few hours, my head wasn’t throbbing if my eyes were open. Sitting up was a different story. Glancing at my phone definitely was a no-go.

But, something about the music.

It got me thinking.

My weekly massage therapy that’s been on a painful hiatus, is such a huge part of my life.

Everything about it is so good for the soul. Yeah, sure it works wonders for migraines, but I don’t think there is a single soul who couldn’t benefit from real massage therapy.

Massage therapy can help with anything from sports injuries, to sleep issues, to general relaxation.

Seriously, the idea that I’m going to invest in myself to better myself and have time to just let go… even if it’s just for 30 minutes… is so good for me.

But, here I am, I’ve been home for over a month and I need that time back.

I was blessed with my previous massage therapist, and I’m so thankful I was. The way we worked together has taught me what I need and what my body needs.

black and white photo of a woman holding her coffee cup in the waiting room of a spa
Enjoying a cup of coffee as I wait for my weekly spa appointment.

My first massage here was good. It was an entirely different technique than I was used to. It was very repetitive in the strokes, but it was effective.

The prices were even reasonable.

However, the ambiance of the room didn’t exist. I’m not fond of massage therapists who try to make conversation during the massage. I certainly don’t like much light. One of the biggest “zen moments” for me that I want out of a massage comes from the tranquility that exists in a quiet, dark room. My mind is allowed to wander as the massage itself soothes my pain away and releases chemicals that basically give you the sense of being high… especially when they’re being released in your neck and head area.

I was so sore the next day. Which, I expected. With the amount of tension that had built up, I should have been much more sore in my opinion.

The other issue I had was the way this therapist communicated with me. I didn’t get a sense of passion from her. Sure, she has migraines and understands that aspect. But in talking about developing a treatment plan – which was done during the massage – she kept reiterating that she needed to get me on the table for a 90-minute session to really be effective. I had booked a 30-minute session – in part because that’s what was available.

She agreed that a 90-minute session alternating with a 30-minute session every two weeks would be ideal. But the fact that she didn’t believe she could aid me in the initial session I had booked, sort of ruined her credibility in my eyes.

My second massage here was well needed, but I now know that I need to be very selective in who is working on me. Someone who has been practicing for a year, isn’t qualified enough for me. End of story.

This was literally a last-minute booking so I didn’t get to be real picky. All of a sudden I couldn’t move my neck so I took an appointment at the first place with a same-day opening.

My therapist was young and enthusiastic, but very heavy-handed. She was up front about this so I made a point to mention the areas that need a soft touch or cannot be massaged at all – like where my neck meets my skull.

The massage started out wonderful. I even got a free aromatherapy upgrade and a Himalayan salt rock massage sample. But her touch was heavy. My entire back needed that, but the rest of me not so much.

Now, I’m not one to just not speak up, so I spoke up when she started to press too deeply.

She was less talkative, but did ask for feedback throughout the massage. This, I appreciated because I could tell how aware she was and how hard she was trying to tailor the massage to my needs.

At the end of the massage, she referred me to a different therapist in the same practice who she believed would better be able to attend to my needs. I appreciated this as well, because although she was doing her job just fine, she recognized that her style of massage wasn’t what I needed.

But I left the massage feeling bruised and broken. She tried to work on the tissue around my jaw. I couldn’t eat solid food for a few days. She admitted that it wasn’t something she’d ever done before. My arms and hands hurt as well. Maybe I’m just a fragile being, but my pinky was bruised, literally, from the way she had manipulated it.

She mentioned she’s in school to become a physical therapist. This I understand. That is much more up her alley.

I’ve had a sports massage before, and that’s what this was.

I may explore her referral to the gentleman who works there.

I have a flyer for another massage therapist with a $20 off referral card, so I’ll head that way first.

After these few test massages, I truly can say I know what I need.

I need a quiet environment. I miss the soft, soothing music that helped me focus my breathing and allowed me to drift into a trance.

I need a gentle massage. With the way my body works, although there are a few knots that can always use some applied pressure, when it comes to my neck, pectoral muscles, shoulders, upper arms, face and scalp, I need a soothing massage.

I need someone who will take 15 minutes before my appointment to really understand what I’m looking for. A piece of intake paperwork isn’t sufficient. Even if it’s 15 minutes that’s on a different day than my massage. There needs to be some sort of evaluation method for therapists outside of going and getting an actual massage.

I need someone who is truly passionate about their practice. I need someone who treats it as a healing practice. Because to me, that’s what it is.

And most importantly, I need someone who is willing to work with me beyond the table. If I change an exercise routine, I should be able to ask how that may impact my neck tension. If I’m stuck with a shitty treatment option – like that awful physical therapy – I need someone who can offer their own feedback. To me, my massage therapist is just as important as my actual doctor.

Originally published: October 18, 2018
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