Getting Lost in a Body Area

Clients can seek massage for stress relief and relaxation, or for therapeutic work on a specific problem. Sometimes a client with an acute problem comes for general relaxation and stress relief. You can’t assume that just because they have a chronic issue that that’s always why they’re there.

I have a chronically unhappy left shoulder due to car accident that I was in over a decade ago. My shoulder loves work, and my shoulder is perennially a thing of curiosity to every massage therapist because it’s so clearly adhesed, plus it moves around when it’s receiving massage work. What this can do, though, is cause some therapists to get “lost” in my shoulder area at the cost of doing work in other areas where I also would like to receive massage.

While therapists often feel that spending extra time in a problem area is part of doing more effective work for the client, the truth is that sometimes clients are also looking forward to other areas being worked. So, how do you strike a balance when you know that you just hit “the mother-load of all muscle problems” and yet you only have an hour? The answer is communication, communication, communication. Ask questions like:

“Do you feel we have worked this area sufficiently?”

“Should I spend more time there, or is it time to move on?”

“Would you like me to spend another 15 minutes here? It may mean that we don’t quite get to cover your arms or legs (or whatever other area is not a primary complaint).”

Share with the client what you are feeling with your hands and what would be the benefit of the additional work, but let their priorities guide your massage plan for the day. If the issue feels like one that would benefit from a more targeted session, go ahead and suggest that the client schedule a time to come back in and focus on that specific area. Make sure you give the problem areas their due, but take care to avoid getting “lost” in a body area.

2 thoughts on “Getting Lost in a Body Area

  1. Rachel

    I have a wonky QL which I actually prefer not worked most times because it is so easy to set off. Chiropractic adjustments seem to be the best thing when it’s bad, but there is very little massage work I can tolerate there. This has made me aware of how a chronic problem area can be and how counter-intuitive it can be to not work it. Good article.

  2. Sue Peterson

    Great advice….let the client so tell the time and intensity….it is not unusual for a client to beg for shoulder work and then complain to the front desk that you skipped their legs….


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