June 24, 2013
Massage

How to Choose a Massage Therapist

Picking a massage therapist can be daunting, if you are searching for someone for a long-term therapeutic relationship. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Look at Qualifications.

Education: In Colorado, massage therapists are required to have a minimum of 500 training hours from a nationally credentialed school. You can check licensing by visiting the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Click on the verify license key, and input a name.

In states that don’t regulate or license massage therapists, it is wise to ask your potential therapist about their training.

Has the therapist taken additional trainings in complementary modalities, such as reflexology and aromatherapy? A well-trained massage therapist will know which modalities will help your conditions. If they are unable to meet your needs, then they should refer you to appropriate providers.

Ask Around for Recommendations.

Asking someone you know for a reference is a usually a safe way to go. Looking at the person’s website will let you browse before you sign up for a meeting. Many professional therapists carry credentialing though a national credentialing board, such as NCBTMB, and are listed on that board’s website.

Match the Type of  Massage with Your Needs.

If you just want rest and stress relief, then you might consider a Swedish massage. If you are an active type, and get muscle aches, perhaps someone who does sports massage would be a better fit. Someone trying to recover from injuries may want someone who does medical or deep-tissue massage.

Location: Spa, Office, Home?

Ask where your therapist works. Out of their home? An office? A spa? You may even ask whether your therapist does sessions at a client’s home.

Where they work will lend a completely different tone and experience for your sessions. If you want to have that spa experience, by all means book there. You might also look into booking appointments at massage schools, where the fees are reduced, as the students are learning.

Table Massage vs. Chair Massage.

Table massages are done in private rooms, with soft lighting, music, and possibly aromatherapy. One removes most or all clothing and reclines between sheets, remaining fully draped, except for the particular area the therapist is working on at the moment. Your therapist will use lotions and/or oils to help decrease friction during the session and ensure a smooth gliding stroke. Sessions can last up to an hour and a half. It is perfectly OK to close your eyes and even doze off.

Someone squeamish about removing their clothing might want to try a chair massage. This can help develop a level of comfort with a new therapist before deciding on a table massage. In a chair massage, you just remove outer clothing like coats or jackets, and recline partially face first onto a headpiece cradle on a massage chair to receive a back, neck and scalp massage.

Your First Massage Appointment—Your Role.

When you arrive for that first appointment, discuss with your therapist your needs, letting them know what areas need attention, what your experiences with massage have been, and how much pressure you like to have during the treatment.

Be prepared to discuss your health history so that your session can be designed for a safe and relaxing experience. If you have a swollen, painful joint that hurts even with light pressure, the therapist needs to know that , so that she can approach that area much more gently (if at all, for the first few sessions).

Follow up: Be Sure You Made a Good Match.

After you your first massage, you should evaluate whether you want to continue. Some questions to ask are:

  1.  Did the therapist ask about your health history? Many therapists will send you an email document to fill out for your first meeting.
  2. Did you and the therapist meet the goals that were put in place at the first meeting? Massage therapists do not have ESP. You need to let them know what you liked or did not like. For example, there are some essential oils that can be unpleasant to certain people, and that needs to be communicated. Was the pressure of the massage just right, too light, or too deep? A good therapist will be asking you these questions during the session.
  3. Did your therapist offer you some tips for self-care? A professional therapist will give you exercises or stretches that you can work with until you come in for that next visit.
  4. Did you feel a connection? Do you want to continue in developing a professional relationship with this person? Do not be afraid to listen to your gut, and what reactions you are getting back from your body. Not everyone responds well to some people, so if you would rather have a root canal than return to this person, probably best to keep checking out other therapists.

We all want to stay as healthy and stress-free as we can and massage therapy can be a great way to do that. What tips do you have for finding and selecting a massage therapist?

About the author:

Annita Stansbury was the director of the Holistic Health program at Front Range Community College's Larimer Campus and an Advanced Practice Nurse - CNS and NP.