Ask a Massage Therapist: What do I need to know before beginning a massage session?

Get to know the client before beginning the session. You’ll want to talk to them about their expectations so you can correct any misperceptions before the session begins. Also, get to know their habits so you can tailor the session to their needs. Do they work at a computer all day so may need some extra attention to their shoulders? Are they amateur athletes who have suffered past injuries? The more you know about your client’s  lifestyle and habits, the more prepared you’ll be for the massage session.

Talk to new clients about things they might be nervous about but don’t bring up, such as disrobing and talking during the massage session. Assure new clients that draping will protect their modesty, perhaps giving a quick demonstration if you’re talking in the treatment room. Also, let them know they don’t need to talk during the session, as some new to massage therapy might feel compelled to be chatty with the practitioner.

The Importance of Proper Intake

Informal conversations with clients about the benefits of massage therapy and their habits and lifestyle, however, should always be supplemented with a proper intake form. You’ll get a lot of good information when speaking with your clients and talking to them about their expectations of massage therapy, but a good intake form gives you the details you’ll need to make informed decisions about treatment, including health issues that might indicate or contraindicate massage therapy.

Ask open-ended questions that give you insight. Along with basic information such as name, address and phone number, your intake form should ask about regular activity a client performs that might cause problems. For example, ask if the client regularly exercises, and what sports or exercises are done. You might also ask if any of their hobbies or work require repetitive motions, or if their job causes them to sit at a work station for long stretches of time each day. Finding out if your client has any skin conditions, such as sensitivity, can also help you make better decisions about the massage session. Lastly, you should ask clients about any medication they’re taking, as well as any allergies they might have.

Get a thorough health history. Knowing what health conditions your client is dealing with, if any, is imperative. Health issues the client might not think are of consequence to massage therapy, like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, will almost always change the nature of a massage session. So be sure to ask for a detailed health history somewhere on your intake form.

Many forms categorize different systems with a checklist of potential conditions for the client to indicate. For example, you can have “Musculoskeletal” with a corresponding list of possible conditions, such as bone or joint disease, tendonitis, arthritis, jaw pain, lupus, spinal problems and osteoporosis.

Want more information on intake procedures? Try these resources:

Client Intake and SOAP Documentation
Introductory Information for New Clients
Creating Client Policies



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