For years you’ve heard about the benefits of massage. A coworker recommended it when you strained your back; your brother is always talking about the relaxing bath he takes before his massage; your friend even said it helped her process grief after her father died. So, now what? How do you go about experiencing this magic for yourself?
Bodywork, in addition to being a mode of healing, stress relief, injury rehabilitation, and more, is a method of communication. Just as not everyone communicates in the same way, each massage therapist delivers a different experience. Finding a person whose skills, manner, and approach are compatible with your needs and preferences may take time, but the end result will be greater comfort and relaxation.
Do Your Research
First, examine your reasons for seeking bodywork. Are you an active athlete looking for steady treatments to optimize your performance? Are you recovering from an injury? Have you been experiencing severe stress or discomfort? Or would you just like to escape from the world for a bit and restore some balance to your energy?
There are dozens, if not hundreds of types of bodywork, ranging from traditional deep tissue massage to light Healing Touch therapy, as well as movement therapies and energy work therapies. Each type can address different concerns, and you may find that two modalities complement one another for greater wellness. Understanding what you’re hoping to address through massage will help you narrow down which type(s) of treatments are right for you and select a professional who practices this type of treatment.
If you’re not sure what treatment will be best, that’s OK, too. Schedule an appointment with a massage therapist and experience the treatment, then share your health history to determine whether there are alternative therapies you could consider.
Choose a Massage Therapist
It’s extremely important to find a bodywork professional who is knowledgeable, skilled, and properly credentialed for the work they do. No matter where you search, make sure the therapist you choose has received the proper certification.
Personal referrals are a good place to start. If someone you know has been talking to you about their wonderful massage therapist, they likely can vouch for the therapist’s credentials. Even though what works for someone else might not work for you, a glowing review is hardly a bad sign. In very populated areas, a good recommendation can help narrow the field when it seems like there are too many options.
What if you don’t know anyone who uses a massage therapist in your area? Rather than searching online and combing through pages and pages of results, consider using a trusted online directory. Massagetique and other similar directories list professionals whose background and credentials have already been verified and approved, and you can usually narrow your search to a specific modality if you have one in mind.
Collaborate with Your Massage Therapist
Finding the right massage therapist doesn’t end with picking up the phone and making an appointment. Before the communication of bodywork can happen, there needs to be thorough communication between the client (you) and the therapist. Intake paperwork before the session can cover current or pre-existing health issues and concerns you might have, but you also have a responsibility to talk with your massage therapist about any additional considerations.
Do you have allergies to any oils? Are your feet extraordinarily ticklish? Would you prefer a silent treatment room, classical music, or ocean sounds? There are many topics you might want to discuss with the practitioner before starting your session so you can both have an optimal experience. A good massage therapist will ask these questions and more to understand what brings you in for treatment. They will also talk with you a bit about what to expect from the session, especially if you are relatively new to bodywork in general.
Continue to communicate during the treatment if something is uncomfortable or unexpected. A practitioner can learn a lot through contact with your body—whether a muscle is particularly tight, for example—but not your personal tolerance for pressure and movement. Be transparent about your comfort level. Neither you nor your therapist benefits from a white lie about how you’re enjoying the treatment.
Be Willing to Try Something Else
Even a great massage from a great massage therapist may not be the right fit, and it’s OK to recognize that and continue to look for the treatment that best suits you. Whether you find you need a different kind of physical pressure or you are more interested in bodywork that helps restore energy flow and promote emotional wellness, it’s important to continue searching for the right modality and practitioner for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask the first massage therapist you visited for recommendations, as well. A good massage therapist will respect your desire to keep exploring bodywork with different practitioners. Your health journey is very personal, and you deserve you find the right person to help you feel your best.