Like so many of my peers, I used to regard chair massage as nothing but an “introductory” technique that would allow clients to experience a bit of massage, after which they’d want to come to a spa or clinic where they’d get a longer “real” session. That was, until one day when I joined a group providing massage on-site at a large retail chain for both customers and floor staff.
The response from the staff was so profoundly grateful, that it opened my eyes and changed my whole perception of chair massage. The women who came up were shocked at how much better they felt. They asked, “Is there any way that you could do this on a regular basis? Could you get our management to set this up?” They could tell that they were receiving true healing benefit from even those short 10-minute sessions.
So, why is chair massage viewed as less-valuable than other modalities like sports massage, clinical massage, Thai, shiatsu, etc.? Well, for one thing, sessions tend to be shorter: instead of an hour, they run just 10-30 minutes. Secondly, clients are clothed, so you can’t access their skin. You have to modify your technique, and you can’t use many techniques, like effleurage. Plus, certain body areas, like the front of the legs, abdominal area, and the chest, are not exposed without special arrangement.
However, there are a lot of things that you can do in a chair massage session. You still get great access to people’s neck, back, head, shoulders, arms, and hands. But the most interesting thing that I learned that day is that for some of those clients, this would be the only version of massage that they would ever receive or consider receiving, and, while it might be less-effective than a full session on the table, we all know that all massage has benefits simply because healing touch is healing touch.
I’ve come to realize that clothed chair massage is a wonderful and valuable modality unto itself that serves a portion of the population for whom it’s the perfect fit:
- People who are not comfortable taking off their clothing—those who are shy or maybe have religious conventions that prevent them from getting undressed
- Those who may not have the funds to go for a $70-90 session but will gladly spend $25 for 15-20 minutes of massage
- All those hard-working, busy people, who are so busy that taking an hour or two out of their day is just not feasible. For them, access to a shorter session nearby or even potentially right in their neighborhood or where they work is a godsend.
Don’t underestimate the role that chair massage, particularly on-site, can play in your practice.