I’ll Be Back! Not!!

By Lori Beyard & Tessa Brooks

Have you ever had a bad massage and never gone back to that spa? Have you ever had a mediocre massage and just felt it was not worth the money? Perhaps you didn’t enjoy the massage. Your massage therapist needs to know these things. The worst thing you can do for your therapist is to not be honest. Most therapists want to know what works and what needs to be improved on. This is not just for your benefit. Honestly, most massage therapists choose this career field to support themselves and/or their families; not being good at what we do might hinder that from happening.

The following are a few examples of what would constitute a bad massage:

1. Onion of Death During an interview, one client mentioned that she smelled the worst onion breath ever. Not wanting to embarrass the therapist, she braced for the entire massage having the stench curl her nose hairs. She never complained, but… she also didn’t tip and didn’t ever come back. She went on to tell her friends and neighbors not to book an appointment with that spa since they didn’t care enough to make sure their therapists knew what bad breath actually meant, and how to fix it with a simple breath mint or… Hello! SCOPE? They equated bad hygiene with bad service or a dirty spa.

2. Here kitty, kitty I have actually received what I would call one of the worst massages ever. (You know it had to be bad since I have had tons of massages!) The therapist had very inconsistent pressure during the entire massage. She gave mediocre pressure on my back when I specifically told her to go deep. When she reached my arms and legs, it was like she lost her steam or even the will to go on. Instead of pressure, she just petted me. I literally felt as if I was her pet cat and she was trying to pet me to see if I would purr. Really?? Luckily it was part of my job to critique her work so that hopefully her future clients would never have to experience that. You are welcome clients of that nameless therapist. I just saved you!!

Communication is all too important between therapist and client!3.  I often hear complaints that clients went in for a massage needing their back worked on, but still wanted a full body massage… After telling their therapist about their problem area, the therapist spent minimal time in that area before moving on! For some reason the therapist spent 15 minutes just on their feet… Her feet felt great! Sadly, her back was still screaming “HELP ME”!! Again, the client COULD have and SHOULD have said, “I think I need more time on my back before you move on please, but they did not. Hint, hint people! Find your voice! It’s your session!

Massage therapists: Take charge of your massage! Give your clients “permissions” to speak up people!

1. Don’t let them hold their breath and squeeze out a “fine” when asked if the pressure is too deep. Don’t let them say “fine” when asked if the pressure is okay, if it’s too light.

2. If your client doesn’t like their glutes worked on because it makes them uncomfortable make sure that you ask if it’s ok to go there!

3. Make sure you don’t smell like smoke! Would you want to go to a restaurant and eat something you didn’t order, or something that just tasted awful and not complain? Okay, maybe you are a person that would.

4. Please don’t be the type of therapist that let’s your client suck it up and not say anything without giving them a chance to speak up or not letting them know up front that you would prefer it if they did.
Clients: We want to hear from you! Please, please, please do not tell other therapists’ that they were “wonderful”, “great”, “super”, or anything else they were not. I personally would rather be told I was awful than to have you blow smoke…well…you know where.

All right let’s vent! Tell us about that thing you wanted to tell that therapist that but never had the guts to do so.

26 thoughts on “I’ll Be Back! Not!!”

  1. Great article Ladies!!! There is nothing more frustrating than being “petted” or teased when your back is screaming for deeper therapy. Communication goes both ways. Clients need to feel it’s ok to request more pressure AND therapists need to be ok with listening and addressing the critique. That’s why we do what we do, to provide a healing experience.

  2. All very important things to keep in mind considering tis profession is to be our livelihood. Thanks for reinforcing the major components for being a great therapist.

  3. I completely agree with all of the statements in this article. I haven’t been massaging long since I’m just in the alpha classes, but I do know from experience of having massages and giving massages that the therapist needs to let the client know to say something if anything about the massage is wrong or doesn’t feel right. I always ask my clients if the pressure is too deep or not deep enough, and ask how a certain stroke feels because I try new ones all the time. The worst massage I ever received was from a therapist who smelled like smoke and gave me kind of the feeling that she was petting me also. At least now I know what to never do!

  4. I agree that it is important to tell your therapist what they are doing wrong. How are they going to know unless you point out there mistakes. You cant fix a mistake if you don’t know your making it. I like it when my classmates point out what they liked and didn’t like about my massage. That way I know what to work on and improve on. Being critiqued by my classmates could literally determine my success or failure once I’m in the field. If I can fix my mistakes now I will be better when I graduate to fellow classmates please don’t hesitate to tell me if my massage is horrible.

  5. I’ve only had a few professional massages so I can’t say any of those were bad, but when we first started class, some massages were hurried or choppy because we were still trying to learn. Sometimes the connection from client to student would be lost if something was forgotten. I have no trouble in letting who’s working on me know what’s enjoyable or not.

  6. I hate nothing more than being “petted” as well. Very nice wording Sharon. I pay good money for a professional to entertain my muscles and nerves. My kids know how to give me a fluff and buff so I do not want one from anyone else! My kindness of words come from me just spending an hour writing up a wonderful lab demo and when submitting it, the computer displayed the wonderful words ERROR. I could not get any of it back. So do not pet me, fluff me, disconnect from me at anytime other than flip over time or to get stones. I really get out of wack and want to run at the mouth nasty words and do not want to ever come back to that therapist.

    So all in all, I do not like to be petted, fluffed, greased, disconnected from, or a stroke that is not complete. I feel they have left me incomplete. I also hate paying extra for deep tissue and the MT can not go very deep, and I voice it, but they still make me pay.

  7. I don’t like going to a therapist and being rubbed too rough, but only in certain places such as my IT Band is very sensitive and can not but rubbed to hard but I like a lot of pressure on my lower back. I like the pressure on my back because that is where I have the most pain, but in my IT Band it’s just really sensitive so that is an area that can be petted per say.

  8. I love the pictures very true and funny. I feel that sometimes when I’m working on someone or a classmate they don’t tell me if I am not doing a great job, I guess afraid they will hurt my feelings. It won’t the feedback helps me know what I need to work on. It’s gonna make all of us better if we communicate and help by giving good critiquing.
    Before starting school here I got several massages mostly to help my lower back issues, the worst thing for me was when I had a therapist who just had a cigarette and I feel like I couldn’t breathe the whole massage. Now I wish I would have said something to that therapist but I guess I was to scared to speak up.

  9. I must second the “petting” problem. I think teasing was the perfect term to describe the feeling. It’s almost painful to spend the duration of the massage hopefully anticipating deeper work and the touch of the therapist skating on the periphery of being helpful. However, I have had a massage or two when I requested deeper work and, upon identifying a problem area, so much work was done with no reprieve / recoup time that the massage created more overall tension from the strain of pain endurance. In all this, I recognize my own fault in not maintaining open communication with my massage therapist.

  10. The last massage I got is the only one I can think of that I was not pleased with AT ALL! I went to a spa around town with my husband for our 3 year anniversary. We were signed up for Swedish massage, so it’s not like I was looking for deep tissue, but my therapist was barely using any pressure at all! It was an instance where it was like she was petting me. I have gone to that specific spa for other things before such as waxing and we did facials while we were there, but I don’t know if I would go back for another massage. Maybe if I had a different therapist I would think about it but if it was the same girl…there is NO WAY!

  11. I love this blog because I definitely love feed back on how the pressure was or how the massage was for the client. Feed back helps build up my confidence to help the next person to the best of my ability.It also gives me a chance to communicate about the massage and making sure they are enjoying it. If I am lacking in areas it will help me improve on them. I try to be aware of my clients while they are on the table because their body language will tell me if the pressure is to much or that I hit a tender spot or a ticklish spot.

  12. I have had a few massages that were on the cheaper side, good and the therapist was consistant the whole massage. Then i have been to the higher end massage therapist and was literally “petted”. Not into the petting thing. I always speak up and ask the client to speak up if its to much or not enough. As my golden rule COMMUNICATION is the KEY! You have to have it to be successful!!!!

  13. I’ve never been given a proffessional massage before. But it seems that the amateur ones I’ve received were never as bad as some of the previously mentioned ones either.This blog is really educative towards therapists and clients alike. Going away from the norm of remaining silent may be beneficial to the future of both individuals in the long run. Rather than remaining silent or saying it was fine when it really was the farthest thing from it.Thank you for posting this and helping us understand how to become better therapists and clients.

  14. I do have that problem when I am being worked on I will tell them ya I need more pressure, but don’t feel like you need to ask me twice. I like to relax during a massage. Could the client give some kind of hand gesture or something to inform the therapist the pressure is good or lighten up……You would have to do it if someone could not hear or speak. I know as therapist we need to know about pressure, I like deep pressure @ expect my classmates to be honest with me, but I don’t like being asked over and over

  15. my most common problem with a massage is finding a good balance of pressure. im real tender all over and vary boney so you have to massage lightly most of the time, but when you get to my Rhomboids you can dig in with the exception of my knots. and then even some of the knots you can get deep pressure on. usually once i tell someone they can go deeper on my shoulders they start using that same pressure all over and i feel like im being bruised. normally ill speak up right away, after all no one likes to be hurts, but that perfect pressure still eludes me.

  16. Being “petted” just sounds very awkward… I have always been one to speak up if something in my massage isn’t going how I want. It’s MY massage that I pay for.

  17. I have only had one professional table massage and it was wonderful. I have had several chair massages. My last chair massage was awful. I got one of those fifteen minute chair massages at the mall. The guy was way too rough with me. He never asked me if the pressure was okay with me. I did not know if it was okay to say it was too much. It felt as if he was trying to shove my fave through the cradle. I now know that I should have told him it was too much. After all, I was the one paying for the terrible massage. Now, I will always ask if the pressure I am asserting on my clients and classmates is fine with them.

  18. Once again another great article I agree 100{dd4fd4792e0eb33cfcd896730531ad5ee27f408bd2ce28da7f8125f8188131a8}. If your massage therapist is doing something wrong how will they get better or do what you need if they are not told what they are doing is wrong or what they could be doing better. I also agree with Brendan it is YOUR massage and it is YOUR money and over all it is YOUR body only you know it better then anyone else so please speak up for your body.

  19. One of my pet peeves while having a massage is that is rough. I had a sports massage one time and I felt like I was rubbed with sand paper. That massage did leave an impression that was a good one.

  20. I agree with the girls about the pressure that sometimes it doesn’t feel like pressure.Also, the girls know me when it comes to noises. So, chewing gum is a big no no. I won’t ever be able to relax if there is somebody next to me chewing gum, even if it is quiet, trust me, I can hear.

  21. I once had a therapist use way too much oil. It was all over, when I left my hair felt greasy and nasty it was even on my face and my skin was wet from the oil. Horrible experience. I wish I would have said something now because my sister was telling me how she got a massage from that same person and the same thing happened to her.

  22. There has only been a couple of times that I can think of that I got off of the table and was left feeling like it wasn’t enough. Very seldom will my body always allow deep pressure, especially for trigger point work, but I do enjoy it very much when my body can tolerate it. I know that I should have said something to the therapist working on me. I realize now how important it is to receive criticism to perfect your craft.

  23. Great blog! Even though I have just started MT, I was able to get a lot out of this article. And I will be able to take this information and apply it right now. The part about finding your voice was a great reminder. Also, I loved the “kitty” example. I would say that has to be the worst!

  24. It is true that not all clients are as forthcoming with negative feedback, and why would they be? Paying attention to signs that a client is just “going with it” is necessary for repeat business and not to mention REFERRALS! Going the extra mile and mailing out feedback cards with rescheduling cards is another great way to keep that communication open and making sure the client’s every need is being met during sessions.