Average Day of a Massage Therapist (Part 1)

Massage therapists work in possibly the most unique and interesting career available. Students graduating from massage therapy classes are never the same as before taking them. They have become more physically and emotionally aware of themselves. The glamour of being a therapist often drowns out this detail of the education. However, the career’s interpersonal education offers rewards not usually accounted for in having a steady income.


The 1st Impression

The first five minutes of a session is crunch time for establishing a good first impression.  There are two goals to be accomplished within this very short time. The first and easiest to is draping. Clothes are removed and the patient is covered. The second, more important task is more difficult to accomplish. A massage therapist must establish trust with their client.

In general, it is very difficult for people to relax and feel comfortable. Removing their clothes and leaving them exposed in front of a stranger does not usually help. However, massage therapists are responsible for helping their clients feel as comfortable as possible. It is in their job description. An uneasy client is very unlikely to enjoy the session or return for another. Clients are put at ease with confidence and communication. Massage therapists must be confident enough to carry the mood of a session.

A nervous massage therapist equates to an uncomfortable patient. The trick and hardest thing for any massage therapist to do is make a session their own. Self-confidence can fight them every step of the way. It is very rare massage therapists enter a session without concerns and fear, fear of hurting someone or of making their day worse rather than better. The last thing any therapist wants is to make their client feel hurt or uncomfortable.

Sessions often begin with questions focused on the client and their day. These questions allow massage therapists to assume command of the conversation and help ease the initial friction of meeting someone for the first time. Serving a double purpose, these questions allow a therapist to record areas of possible concern before a client’s ever on the table. Probing for complaints and understanding their average day, is an excellent way to get acquainted with a client’s specific needs. Someone sitting at a desk all day will likely carry their stress differently than someone spending that time on their feet.


On the Table

A good massage therapist knows how to instigate communication and what questions to use. Patients should be interrogated on how different strokes feel in order to establish a personalized level of pressure. This is impossible to do with only single word responses for direction. Good question deserve a good answers. Detailed responses supply more information and are more helpful than yes, no replies ever will. It is up to a massage therapist to keep the conversation going throughout a session. If a response reveals something hurts, therapists will run with it. They will ask about the pressure of other strokes and areas out of curiosity and concern.


People are prone to making mistakes, especially the mistake of assuming. Patients often assume massage therapists are programed to know what amount of pressure to apply. This being true, many patients will deny feeling any pain while on the table. They are sweating and cringing at every stroke. By telling themselves the massage therapist knows best, they justify the pain. They’re not feeling anything they’re not supposed to feel.

Patients accidentally assume a massage is supposed to hurt. Each session is entered with a mindset dictating what they should feel. They assume benefit only comes from pain. Ironically, pressure is the biggest compliant massage therapists have to battle. Poor communication and misconception falsely direct patients to suck it up when it is not actually supposed to hurt.

Massage therapists can only do so much. An absence of signs is very unlikely. Twitching and sudden pauses in breadth are obvious signs of pain. However, it is difficult for anyone to pay attention to do two things at once. Imagine trying to read and watch television at the same time. It does not usually work out. It is impossible for anyone to give two things their full attention at the same time. Lost in the feel and movement of an individual’s muscles, a massage therapist may be completely unaware of clenched fist or tightened lip. Practice makes perfect, but there is no such thing as perfect. A good massage is one that has been vocally directed by the patient.


It’s easy for a massage therapist to get lost in the facts. Women require softer strokes than men. Men are in general not as sensitive. Facts are good and facts are bad. Facts exist to give people a starting point. They do not exist as a set of directions carved in stone. Such a belief allows for no variety or exceptions. The most important task of any massage therapist is to avoid routine.


Routines by definition act to cancel out variety. Once developed, routines become a slippery slope. Following one is the biggest mistake a massage therapist can make. Unfortunately, it is easy for weeks to feel routine, like a constant repetition of the same procedure day after day. A burnt-out massage therapist is usually herding people through before they know it.

Blinded by routine and ignorant of variety, a massage therapist sees only another body on their table. They do not see someone with a personalized pain tolerance, custom comfort zone or specialized area of need. Their table has become a holding place within a morgue of bodies that all feel the same thing and react the same way.

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See Part 2: Outside the Office!