I can’t express strongly enough how important it is for clients to speak up during a bodywork session if they are uncomfortable for any reason or think their needs are not being met. If you are receiving a treatment, that time is for you, for your healing and benefit, and you are ultimately in control. Clients often tell me that they are nervous about their massage because the last time they were on the table, it hurt, and they were afraid to speak up. I am here to encourage you to never ever, never ever allow someone else, even a trained professional that you have hired, hurt you. And if they try to tell you to breathe through it or that pain is necessary to achieve your results, you have the power to end the session.
Over the past eleven years, I’ve had a handful of complaints from clients. The befuddling thing is, usually they don’t complain to me, but to the front desk. After the session is over. And after it is possible to rectify the situation. Someone complained once that I used too much oil, another that the lights were too bright, and one that there was too much noise in the spa. Once I passed a man I had just massaged in the waiting area, seething because his wife hadn’t come out yet. Her therapist was gifting her with extra time, and he was so angry about waiting that he complained I shorted his time, even though he was happy when we parted. These episodes were all quirky issues that I couldn’t really have done much to fix. The legitimate complaint that surfaces once or twice every year or so is that I didn’t use enough pressure.
I’m pretty tuned in to a client’s nervous system and am reading their muscles’ responses during a massage. Generally, I am using enough pressure to encourage release without triggering a defensive reaction. That means that I never want my client to feel pain while on the table; they might very well feel some discomfort if their goal is therapy for an injury or unsticking a long term stuck-ness; but not actual pain. So naturally the client who believes “if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working” is not a good match for me. Overall, I’m pretty good at weeding this personality type out, and either educating them to my approach, or admitting that I can’t meet their needs. Sometimes, though, they slip through the cracks, and end up feeling frustrated on my table.
The reason I encourage people to speak up, is not to demand that I do what they want, but to at least make it possible. If someone is wanting more pressure than I am willing to deliver, if they ask, I can explain my reasons. If theydisagree, and the session is just beginning, we can stop, and they can go on their way without paying, and find a more suitable match. A few weeks ago, I was working on a woman who had run a marathon the day before. Essentially, her muscles were traumatized. She asked for more pressure, and I slightly increased to the maximum I felt appropriate, and she commented “yeah, that’s good.” She answered “good” to my check-in during her turn-over, and again at the end. But she told the front desk that she kept waiting for more pressure. If she had repeated her request, or been truthful during the check-ins, I would have explained that I was worried about impeding circulation in muscles that desperately needed fresh oxygen delivered and toxins to be carried away, that her fight or flight response was already right on the edge, and that I was supporting her desired goal of relaxation and circulation by using a medium-firm pressure. If she disagreed with my technique, I would have offered to stop then and there. We were only 15 minutes into a 60 minute session, so I wouldn’t have charged her and she could have booked with a more aggressive therapist.
It is really important that clients learn to stand up for themselves. Don’t be afraid to speak up, especially if the bodywork is hurting and you haven’t requested an intense session. Don’t ever let your therapist bully you, or believe that they know more than you do about your own body. If your temperature or position is uncomfortable, let us know- we can help you! We don’t want you to be shivering or wish your head was half an inch higher. It is our job to make you comfortable. It is your job to tell us if you are not. If you have special needs, it’s best to discuss them ahead of time so the therapist can decline or be prepared as they see fit. If you’re wanting something and you’re not getting it- ASK! Don’t wait until it’s over and too late. You might not receive exactly what you’re wanting, but at least you won’t have to pay for something you don’t.