Why an Intake Interview is More Important Than You Think

Everyone knows that massage therapy can be great for pain relief.

And so are painkillers. Ibuprofen, Advil, Excedrin, pick your poison. I shouldn’t call them that, I guess. They are great when you’re on your third day of pounding temples, with an ache that reaches down your neck, into your rhomboids and you can’t seem to find relief otherwise. And that’s just what my first client of the week thought. We’ll call her “Mary”…

“Mary popped 9 ibuprofen the day beforehand and 7 on the morning of her late afternoon massage appointment. Not knowing any better, and probably in desperation, she swallowed the meds hoping for relief before the relief. Maybe she thought the partnership of medication and a good massage would leave no choice for that nagging headache except to hightail it out of there. But hot damn, that’s a lot of pills! Talk about overkill.

Thank goodness for intake interviews.

This was an opportunity to educate. I informed her that as much as I want to dig into her occipitals, levator scapula, scalenes, and traps, I wouldn’t be doing so in todays treatment. Bummer. We would simply do a Swedish massage, with a really great scalp treatment…and here’s why:

When you take any type of painkillers it puts a block on your body’s ability to sense pain. The problem has not gone away. You just don’t feel it anymore. This poses a problem when receiving massage. Especially the type of massage that “Mary” was looking for: a fix-this-problem type of massage. An investigative-trigger-point-therapy type of massage. An it-may-feel-worse-before-it-feels-better type of massage. With this sort of treatment, comes the need for clear and honest communication from the client. It would be unsafe for “Mary” to receive the deep work she was looking for after taking pain medication because if my pressure became too deep for the tissue to handle, she wouldn’t know it, and in turn, neither would I.

Pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our nervous system senses pain in order to give us information. With out the nervous system functioning properly and effectively, “Mary” would not have been able to tell me if my pressure was too deep, or if I was causing her more pain. This could result in an injured and unhappy client. And who wants that!?

No one. No one wants that.

Luckily “Mary” was understanding and took it as a lesson learned. Turns out her headache was lessened to a slight ache after the relaxation treatment anyway. Who needs pills?

In the end, she respected my willingness to explain it all to her and help any way possible, and I felt good knowing I had stood by my code of ethics. The Hippocratic Oath says to “Do no harm.” And it’s an oath that should always be honored, over the desire to please, or to prove your skills. Massage Therapy releases endorphins in the body, which are a natural pain reliever. Maybe she just needed to zone out and destress for a little bit. There’s nothing quite like a good massage.

As for “Mary”? She re-booked an ibuprofen free appointment for next week, and I’ll look forward to finally saying hello to those scalenes.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net