Explore New Massage Techniques and Change Up Old Routines

Listen, I’m all for the cookie cutter massage. Sometimes it’s what people actually WANT. And after reading this article by Tracy Bradley, I was convinced that it’s a wonderful way to keep your long term clients happy unless they ask otherwise. But hey, different strokes for different folks right?(did ya catch my little massage pun?! HA, I kill me.)

What I’m trying to say is, break some rules. Get out of your comfort zone a little bit and utilize different positions for the “wrong” scenarios. Why does side-lying position need to be reserved only for prenatal clients?  Plenty of athletes with IT problems would greatly benefit from some focus work in this position. And it’s an easy way to access the gluteus medius and the TFL which has been an area of tension and soreness in pretty much everyone I’ve ever worked on.

Try extending the arm up over head while in side-lying position too. What better way to access the serratus anterior, and the intercostals? Not to mention that the Lats present themselves differently in this position so you’ll be able to massage them from a new angle. You can apply slow pressure down the side of the torso as you slowly lift the clients arm up over their head, for example.

Another scenario is treating them before you leave the room. If a client is complaining of neck stiffness and limited range of motion time and time again, try something new. Have her sit on the edge of the table before getting undressed, hold the insertion of the scalenes at the clavicle while she actively stretches. It’ll be much easier for her to flex her neck to the side, pressing her ear towards the shoulder, while in an upright position, versus laying down.

Most likely, this is all stuff you already know and do. I’m just suggesting you re-think how you use the techniques you are already comfortable with. Whip out the chair if it makes more sense for what the client is requesting. Or get down on the floor with them after the treatment and show them some new stretches they can do at home to prolong the benefits of their massage. You have an hour (sometimes more) to treat this person. Use it how you feel will be best for them even if you’ve been cookie cutting it for the last 6 months. They may welcome something fresh…

That being said, I DO strongly recommend you discuss your plans for the hour with them in detail during the intake interview. People like to know what they’re in for, and when you are coloring so far out of the lines, it may take them by surprise. Be sure to explain what you would like to do and why it will be beneficial. “Okay Joanna, so because you’d like to focus on your quads today but you’re also feeling stuffy from allergies, why don’t we start you face up so I can get right to work on your focus area, and then when the massage is almost over, we’ll turn you face up again and do a little sinus work so that you won’t end the treatment with pressure in your face from being in the face cradle, sound good to you?” (Hypothetical Joanna likes this idea.)

I find that the more I educate my clients on their own bodies and why I’m doing what I’m doing, the more regularly they come back. No one likes to be left in the dark and most people will appreciate that you’ve take the time to include them on the why.

In my opinion, the treatment starts the moment they walk in the door. Ask them what they have been doing lately. More office work that usual? More running lately? Let what they tell you in the intake interview help you decide how you’re really going to tailor the treatment today. When the massage is finished, the treatment is still in session. Give them some tips and tricks to do through out the day to counteract their repetitive movements and ask them if any thing still feels a little off. If yes, and you have the time, try a little compression or tapotement in that area while they sit in a chair or offer a minute or two of reiki, if you happen to have that skill in your tool belt.

One of the best massages I ever received was upon seeing a new (to me) therapist that considered my complaints fully. I had booked a one hour deep tissue and he ended up using hot stones on my lower back where I said I was feeling achey, and a tuning fork between my eye brows which sent a lovely vibrational pitch right through me and settled my energy after saying I had been on edge recently. I left feeling like the therapist really heard and understood me, as well as feeling very well taken care of.

So listen to what your clients are trying to say when they talk to you. Explore, reexamine, and revise what you already know. You just may see yourself, and your skill sets in a new light.

 Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Lewis and Clark Community