How to Perform a Massage Without Hurting Your Clients

by Jon of Massage Dreams


I hate lying face down on a massage table ready to enjoy a relaxing massage and not getting it. Even worse, I was biting my lip and squeezed my eyelids. More than that, I kept quiet, because the therapist said “We have to work out these knots, it will hurt a little.

“OK”, I said thinking about when this torture is over. I kept wondering, should this hurt that much? Ask any qualified massage therapist and they will say that it shouldn’t.

Massages may hurt, but it should hurt good. What I experienced, was impossible to resist. I requested a massage because I want less pain in my life, not more.

In the end I joined the team of unsatisfied customers, which from a marketing standpoint is not good for the therapist.

Difficulty finding the balance

Not all clients are the same, and massage therapists are not magicians. Neither of them is able to read minds.

Some people are desperate for pain and others are extremely sensitive during massage.

There are also different techniques. Some of them are too aggressive and others may put you right to sleep. Rolfing, for example, is a kind of massage which is known for hurting like the devil.

If both the client and the therapist have big ego, there is a big hole between them which makes difficult to understand each other.

Client vs Therapist

The client

Many people are inexperienced getting a massage.

There are clients who are disconnected from their body and lack body awareness, and they have hard time differentiating between pain and presence of sensation.

Another category are the hard-as-rock clients, who want a one hour miracle. They keep asking the therapist to use more pressure. They believe that they can be cured of the chronic aches and pains that built up over the years. They are ready to resist the pain in order to make everything go away.

That’s too much expectation from one massage. Don’t you think?

Another issue is that even die hard massage fans don’t understand the difference of one type of massage from another. They have the same expectations whether it is deep tissue or Swedish massage.

The therapist

There are therapists who don’t read very well the client’s body language and go over the client’s pain tolerance.

The “no pain, no gain” concept is risky. Therapists who follow this philosophy are completely unaware about the body’s guarding and protective reflexes. What to do next? How to eliminate the guard? They don’t know.

And what do they do? Right! They ignore the guard reflexes and chalk it up to the clients lack of toughness or over sensitivity to pressure.

Education is the key

Massage therapists have a valid responsibility to educate their clients about what and why are they doing to you, and what should you experience from it.

If the therapist is not breaking you into pieces, doesn’t mean that the work is not effective. As a massage therapist let them know that you tend to start gently, because you need to understand how the client’s body responds to manipulations before you escalate in intensity of the work.

To work in the client’s tolerance level ask for feedback during a massage using a scale of 1-10 scale. You may tell them that you want to work at a 7, and from here they can tell you if the pressure is fine or not.

The memory of a good massage will fade, but the memory of a bad experience can last a lifetime.

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Many thanks to Jon of Massage Dreams for this article.

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