What You Should Know When Selecting A Massage Therapist

Every massage therapist is different. He or she has a different background, personality, set of beliefs, strength, style, knowledge, and specialty.

The first thing to do to be sure that you will be happy with your therapist is to determine your needs; only then will you know what type of therapist to seek. Some specialize only in massages that relax but, if you are hoping to get relief from pain, none of those practitioners is for you. You want someone who truly understands how bodies work and what causes pain, discomfort, and dysfunction.


How To Find A Massage Therapist

If you have a friend or relative who was happy with the relief he or she received at the hands of his or her massage therapist, ask for the name of the practitioner. Alternately, you can contact the American Massage Therapy Association or Associated Massage & Bodywork Professionals to find a list of practitioners who meet their professional membership requirements. Almost every state in the U.S. requires licensing to massage and, if a therapist is licensed, he or she has taken professional training and met other requirements. Other countries also have professional memberships and training; sometimes, the training is quite extensive and in a medical school.

How To Interview A Massage Therapist

Here’s a little secret. Most new practitioners, as well as many who have been in the field for a while, believe they can get rid of pain. This means that when you ask them if they can help with your problem they will probably say yes. There are many reasons for this but, sometimes, therapists only provide light, relaxation treatments – which can be a really valuable thing but not if you are hurting.


Here are some questions to ask a potential therapist.

  • Have you ever treated someone who has my problem?
  • What was the result?
  • How many treatments did it take?
  • Which muscles would you work on to get rid of my pain? (This is a clue – if they say something about a full body massage or that they would only work on the problem area, move on.)
  • Have you had specific training for this problem?

Listen thoughtfully to their responses before deciding whether to schedule an appointment. It’s even more beneficial if you can interview the practitioner in person. In that case, you can see their office, see whether they have medical charts or trigger point charts on the walls, and probably get a better grasp of how they will treat you and where they will work during therapy.


How To Ask For Your Perceived Need

It’s important to be open with the therapist during the interview and your session and to be as specific as possible. If your “shoulder” hurts, tell them exactly where. When you say “shoulder,” it’s not clear whether you mean the top, back, or front of the joint. Or perhaps you mean the upper trapezius area? Or is it that knot near or on your shoulder blade? Be specific. Pointing helps. If it feels like the practitioner is not being effective, you can remind them of your complaint area.

How To Guide Your Therapist During A Session

Be honest about how you are feeling. I ask my clients to tell me whether any area I am treating feels appropriate or inappropriate. Sometimes pain is “good pain” – it is uncomfortable but your body says, “Yes! This is exactly what I need! Don’t stop!” That is appropriate discomfort. But if it just feels wrong to you, then it is inappropriate and you must let the therapist know. Remember that many really do not understand how bodies work and some haven’t had the instruction that allows them to truly relieve pain. They may need direction from you to help you.


Some clients or patients feel discomfort during and after a massage. As mentioned before, if the discomfort doesn’t feel productive or appropriate, it’s not. One woman told me about a practitioner who blasted away for an hour on the knot in her back. Afterward, she said she still had the knot and she was sore, too! Such a practitioner is one who doesn’t understand how or why bodies get muscle knots and pain and what to do to get rid of the pain. Discomfort following a massage may be caused simply because the muscles were tight and are now tender.

Remember that where you hurt may not be where the problem is. A skilled, well-trained massage therapist will possibly “surround the dragon” and start working into the pain from a distance. He or she may know that the pain in your wrist is actually coming from your neck or that your head is hurting because of the muscles in your neck or chest. But you will know when you are with a knowledgeable, experienced practitioner when the treatment starts to feel “right,” right off the bat.