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What makes a bad massage?

We've all had one massage that maybe we felt was sub-par compared to others. After having a few experiences perhaps we have a better sense of our own expectations and what 'hits the spot' so to speak. Perhaps we were left feeling a bit strange or even anxious after a massage. So what is it that makes a bad massage?


1. Communication

Communication is a key factor in ensuring our expectations are met. As a therapist, I make sure to ask my client what they want massaged and clarify on the pressure they want. But, it doesn't stop there. It makes sense to ask on the pressure as we move around the body because the threshold you can take in the legs is not always the same for the back or neck. Since massage is a very international professional, cultural differences can come into play here and make it difficult to communicate our expectations clearly. Too often, I have had my own experiences abroad where I vocalised what was too much or too little for it to be met with confusion or a different response to what I was after. Furthermore, often clients feel anxious to ask for more pressure so as a professional I need to take initiative to ask or trust the client they will tell me to change my technique.


2. Energy

As you get more into massage and wellbeing, you realise that we all carry and store energy in our bodies. To be able to massage effectively, I need to ensure that I am balanced and have the right intentions to heal my client. Without this, I may transfer my own energies and leave them without a good state of feeling afterwards. I had a client that told me she has lymphatic drainage from a male therapist previously and was left with a strange feeling she couldn't point her finger on. I told her that he was perhaps carrying some kind of negative energy or intentions into the session which she picked up on. Even if we are having a bad day or week, its important to stay professional and be as positive as we can.


3. Wrong/Bad Technique

There is no one size fits all, each body and client is different to the next so adaptation is key. But further to this, having a technique that is too brutal on the muscles may leave the client aching more for some time after the booking. We refer to this in the trade as a 'healing crisis'. Often this can happen after seeing a physio therapist who can be very firm but I see therapists often using wrong techniques and going too deep, making a client squirm. Despite the 'no pain no gain' slogan, it's not always the best approach to take.


4. Body Type (and experience)

Sometimes as therapists we get used to having similar clientele. But from time to time, we can come across more challenging body or skin types that we may have not come across before. This is not to say there is anything wrong with your body! One example is that my Mum has severe scoliosis and over time I have got used to navigating her spine. There is a lot to be said for experience and knowledge of anatomy when it comes to massage.


5. Overworked (and underpaid)

The reason why I don't work for a spa is because I prefer to choose quality over quantity. Working for someone else means keeping to a strict routine and timing to ensure the production line keeps flowing. This is just the nature of business and often I feel that when you work in wellness you should practice what you preach.


6. Emotional Release

We all hold emotions in our bodies - often you may find that tension can be held in certain places more than others. I have had an experience once with my physiotherapist where he released an area of my back, causing me to feel strange throughout the rest of the day. I realise now that this was some kind of emotional energy, and the area I was physically 'holding' onto. Often emotional energy can get trapped after some kind of trauma and it's only in these circumstances through wellness we notice we were doing it.


I hope this blog posts is helpful in someway to those wondering what makes a bad massage, and on the flip side, what makes a good one also. Choosing a therapist that suits you is important to a successful session and not every therapist is for every client.

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