Getting the Most out of Massage Therapy
Massage therapy can take shape and a number of forms and it's important to know what type of therapy will work best with you, how to pick the right massage therapist to suit your own individual needs, and how to communicate effectively to get the most out of your treatments.
I live in the province of Ontario in Canada where massage therapy is a regulated profession. Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) are required to complete post-secondary education as well as complete licensing tests administered by a governing body. RMTs are regularly reassessed for their competency and are held accountable for their actions by the governing body. This is to ensure safety, consistency, and professionalism within the profession. On top of that, there are a number of certifications and additional training that RMTs can complete, so you’ll find that there are many RMTs that specialize in particular areas. This can make finding an RMT a challenge, so I wanted to share some tips on picking an RMT as well as getting the most out of treatments.
What are your goals?
The first step in finding a therapist is to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with massage therapy. You might be looking for a way to de-stress and relax, treat an injury, manage chronic pain, or aid in physical performance.
Whatever your reason is, it’s important to recognize what that reason is so it’ll help narrow down your search.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, start looking around! One of the best ways to find awesome RMTs is through word-of-mouth referrals. Ask your friends, family, colleagues, and coaches if they have any recommendations for an RMT that works with the particular goal(s) you are trying to achieve.
My partner is an RMT and he mainly does deep-tissue therapy and rehabilitation, so when clients ask me for recommendations for relaxation massages, I often direct them to other RMTs.
You can also do an internet search, but just make sure you're typing in keywords about your goals to refine your search. I’ve seen some people have good success with asking around in community Facebook groups or online forums.
This is important and practical. If the prospective RMT has a schedule that just doesn’t work with yours, it’ll be pretty challenging to stick to a treatment plan. I don’t know about you, but scheduling conflicts can just be outright frustrating.
Many RMTs work at multiple locations, so it might be helpful to check and see if you can visit them at another location if their schedules work better there.
RMTs often work at clinics that suit their treatment style, so it’s likely that if you can’t get in with them, they would have a colleague at the same clinic with a similar treatment style.
This may be the most crucial aspect of receiving massage therapy. When you first meet a new RMT, understand that they know absolutely nothing about you outside of the information from a basic assessment form you filled out.
Tell them why you are there to see them and what your goals are. You can talk about previous experience with massage and mention what worked or what didn’t. If you’ve never had a massage before, let them know and ask them to explain what you can expect throughout the treatment.
During a treatment, feel free to talk and tell the therapist when something is feeling good, is too painful, or is uncomfortable. The more you can communicate with your therapist, the better they can make adjustments. Although many RMTs are quite good at reading facial expressions and body language, they really don’t know how you’re feeling.
If your RMT is not good at communicating with you or you just don’t get along with them, I would honestly suggest finding someone that you can communicate well with. It’s THAT important.
Allow the RMT to do an Assessment
This is especially important if you are seeing a therapist for an injury related concern, pain management, or performance enhancement.
RMTs are excellent assessors, as they spend an extensive amount of time in school learning and practicing assessment techniques. The more information they can get out of an assessment, the better they will be able to plan their treatment.
I like to ask questions throughout the treatment because I like to know what’s going on. Here’s an example of a common conversation I have with my massage therapist:
Me: “Oh that’s a tight spot you’re working on! What is it?”
RMT: “That’s your pec minor. It’s pretty tight.”
Me: “Interesting! What could I have done to make it so tight?”
RMT: “There are a number of reasons, but most often, I see this with clients who sit, hunched over a desk for most of their day.”
Me: “Ah that totally makes sense. This week I spent a lot of time on my computer.”
Asking questions allows you to understand why you’re getting a massage in the first place. Knowing that I spent too much time at my desk that week encourages me to make sure I take more breaks and be mindful about my posture going forward.
Ask for Remedial Exercise
Remedial exercise is rehabilitative exercises you can be given as part of a therapeutic treatment plan. You’d typically do these exercises on a daily basis.
RMTs will often make exercise and lifestyle recommendations based on their findings, but you can also let them know that you’re interested in learning throughout the treatment. Many people go for massages and don’t really want the recommendations, so I find that many RMTs might hold back on sharing if they don’t feel like the client will be receptive to learning (fair enough!). Let them know that you’d like some recommendations so they can take the last few minutes of the treatment to show you.
It’s OKAY to have multiple therapists!
You might LOVE your mechanic, but you might not want them to style your hair.
Humans are complex and have complex needs!
Sometimes I see my RMT for treating pain and injuries, while other times I’ll see a different therapist for a relaxation massage. I see great benefits from both!
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein
Sometimes we’re just not compatible with our RMT. We might feel uncomfortable, don’t like their touch, or just might not be getting the results we’d like. That’s OK! Ultimately, it’s your body, your time, and your money. Keep looking around until you find a good fit.
Massage is a wonderful therapy and I hope you’ll be able to get the most out of your treatments using these key tips!