rub me right
September 30, 2008 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Massage therapist filter: What things can you not do without in your workplace? Massage therapy client filter: What things do you love about your massage therapist's practice?

Question is being asked on behalf of a friend who is a certified massage therapist starting up her own business. She'll be sharing a rented space with another massage therapist. Showering facilities will be available for her clients, if that makes a difference. This is her maiden voyage as a business person and "official" massage therapist. She's very excited and wants it to be a relaxing experience for her clientele (well, and a successful business for herself).

What kinds of items should she make sure to have on hand in her new space - Music? Massage products? Tools? Amenities?
posted by mcbeth to Work & Money (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I use satellite radio. Both Sirius and XM have several channels with suitable music & no commercials, plus clients who have preferences can choose another channel (that doesn't happen often though). CDs run the risk of regular clients hearing the same music over and over, and the classical music station has NPR news updates on the hour (not so relaxing).
posted by headnsouth at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2008

I absolutely have to have Hyporallergenic tissues available when I get a massage.

That's right folks. I'm allergic to regular facial tissue. And a good massage really opens up my sinuses.

Also, I prefer an unscented massage cream. And not oil. Never oil. And warm that cream before it comes out of the tube. It's never warm enough if it's just been held in the massage therapists hand.
posted by bilabial at 2:10 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, from a customer perspective, here are the things I like are:
- Scrupulous cleanliness. If I'm worried about whether a place washes everything between customers, I'm not relaxing.
- Warmth. Sometimes therapy rooms are cooler than I like. A space heater and/or blankets may help.
- Option of either scented or unscented oils. A range of scented options is even nicer, but at a minimum an unscented option is key.
- Drinking water or herbal tea is a really nice amenity.
- Ability to process credit cards. I understand the cash-only preference some places have, but it's not convenient. And even though their merchant charges are high, AmEx is important if she targets a relatively affluent group.
- Website that explains her qualifications, style, prices, etc.
- Not having products pushed on me, though if they're available in a display case, I don't mind and have very occasionally bought items for home use.

Also, in terms of building the business...
- I think it's also perfectly reasonable to suggest to happy customers that she'd really appreciate any recommendations. She should have a stack of business cards for people to take.
- If you live in an area where is used much, try to get rated there too. I found my favorite place that way.

Congrats on her new business, and best of luck to your friend!
posted by CruiseSavvy at 2:11 PM on September 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

From a client's perspective:
- The room as got to be warm enough. Additional blankets and the offer to put them on is helpful. I run very cold so I appreciate it when a therapist proactively asks if I want a blanket and I don't have to interrupt 10 minutes in to say I'm chilly.
- Arrhythmic music. I can't really relax to music with words or an obvious measure. Nature sounds are ok, too, but those rainforest birds can be shrill. And lose the Enya, please.
- A quality lubricant. I'm not sure whether the two I like are just my preference or objectively better, but over the years I've come to like Biotone Dual Purpose and mildly scented aqueous creams (not sold in the US for some reason). They're not oily/greasy afterwards, they are moisturizing, and they're gently fragranced (not enough to produce a headache, but enough to remind me later in the day that yes, in fact, I did have a massage earlier and it was wonderful).
- Water freely available before and after the massage
- Some places have those heated pads that come out of a counter-top contraption. I'm not exactly sure what they are, but they make a big difference for my tense shoulders.
- Lights that dim.
- A table for pregnant women is nice. I know this may be a big added expense, but I know my massage options get narrow when I'm pregnant because not everyplace has one.
- Keep your nails trimmed.
- A pricing list I can take with me, with business hours and contact information.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:11 PM on September 30, 2008

A few years ago I spent some time in Bali and I noticed that the massage therapists there would always have something beautiful on the floor underneath the opening where your face goes when you are on your tummy. Usually it was an arrangement of blossoms on a shallow plate. I really enjoyed having something pretty to look at while I was face-down.
posted by ambrosia at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your friend probably knows already -- but it seems some don't -- that a client with sore or injured muscles will feel worse, not better, after the massage if the trouble spot is not handled very gently, or skipped entirely. Clients may self-prescribe massage (as I once did) because it usually makes them feel better, when what they really need is rest and/or heat and/or physical therapy.

Definitely, she also needs that face-catcher thingy that extends off the end of the table. And everything else listed above.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2008

An under-served demographic: fat folks. I enjoy a massage, probably have fewer hang-ups that other fat people. However, I've had some bad experiences and some awesome experiences. Awesome experiences: have robes available in a large range of sizes, and let clients know they are available. Acknowledge that clients might have body issues, and ask them what parts they do/don't want touched. Have a stable, secure table that doesn't feel like it's going to buckle under me and is wide enough to accommodate me comfortably. Take care during transitions (stomach to back) to maintain clients privacy, even offering to leave the room while they rearrange themselves. Also, keep clients covered as much as possible while you work on them (at their discretion). Make it a great experience, and I'll be back whenever my cash flow allows (and recommend you to my fat and thin friends).

Bad experiences... allow your disdain at having to touch a fat person be so palpable that I tell you to stop, and get a mani/pedi instead (it was gift certificate to a day spa).
posted by kimdog at 3:12 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with most everything mentioned above, especially the points about unscented cream options and warmth.

There are only a few things that I can think of that I find prevent me from relaxing during massage other than the lack of necessities like clean sheets, warmth, towels, etc. Sometimes the room is too bright, which is jarring. I have also heard people mention that ocean sounds make them feel like they need to go to the bathroom.

The worst part of the massage can sometimes be the therapist, though. My massage therapist is way too chatty and tells me all about her problems, which is the opposite of relaxing. She also tries to diagnose medical problems and push sketchy alternate therapies on me. Sadly, because of these things I stopped seeing her even though she does good massage and is in the office next door to mine.
posted by bristolcat at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2008

I need to be reminded that I'm not there for a social hour, that even though most massage therapists are pretty cool people my time is not spent well if I'm chatting with them; it's got to be distracting to them, and it is distracting to me -- my job is to relax, even when it stings or burns or downright hurts (I never go unless I've jerked something around in my back in my yoga practice) as they track down what's going on and help unhook it.

Plants -- nice.
Music -- myself, I like quiet, I like deep silences. But that's increasingly hard to find nowadays in any urban setting; if the office has any outside noises filtering in, unobtrusive music or white noise is a good thing, for sure.
I like everything cruisesavvy said, favorited that comment.
The person I use most has cool water and real pretty, chilled glasses -- I won't drink water out of a plastic bottle, one of the largest lunacies of our time.
I love the fact that they can shower afterwards. Soft towels.
If the person can spazz out for a few minutes in a nice, quiet, clean room, after their shower, as they drink their chilled water, before they head back out into their life, that would so rock.

Tell her to listen to people coming in the door. If she can't or won't do what they ask, tell them so they can find someone who can. A couple of years ago I was in some pretty deep confusion and emotional pain, depression, and I know that the Upledger method of cranial sacral therapy is just great for me. Never more than the weight of a nickel applied, but it frees me up, big time, great energy work. Two massage therapists told me that yeah, they'd had that training, yeah, they'd do that, I get on their table and the both said "Well, I use an eclectic approach; I'm going to mix that in -- I do what I do." and proceeded to give me your basic, standard massage, and now I've got what I walked in with plus anger at these liars. The reminder above about Yelp is appreciated; I'm going to go there and warn people off of them.

Good luck to your friend.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:30 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

The thing I like best about my wonderful massage therapist is that she's intuitive and gracious.

People who don't want to talk? She gets it right away and doesn't push conversation. Chatty Cathies? No problem, she can chat. People who are really into reflexology and chakras? She can speak that language. People who hate that new agey stuff? Not necessary to give a great massage.

I prefer scented oils. My therapist has a lot that she blends on the spot. They are very high quality, though. Cheap oils, bleeeah. This is not a place to cut corners.

A heated table pad is terrific. Keeps me warm and makes the work on my back easier and more productive for her (we start with me face-up.)

At the end of my massage, she always asks how I am...and if there's a spot that she didn't get thoroughly enough, she'll work on it for a few more minutes. This is part of the reason her relationships with her clients are so great -- certainly as a massage therapist you can't be a doormat and let people suck you in for hours past the allotted time, but I really appreciate that she schedules her appointments with a bit of a cushion so that she doesn't need to flee when the clock stops to avoid delaying her next client.
posted by desuetude at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2008

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Nothing kills the buzz faster than when you are half asleep and you suddenly hear voices in the next room which snap you out of it.

A phone, a cell phone in particular, is enough for me to not want to come back. If I want to hear telephones I could have stayed at the office.
posted by monkeydluffy at 3:47 PM on September 30, 2008

I just remembered something else --- I keep a supply of pony-tail holders for clients who don't have something to keep their hair up.

The table-warmer is a necessity IMO too --- your body cools down a lot during the course of a massage, so even clients who aren't chilly at first might want heat halfway through.
posted by headnsouth at 4:59 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had an amazing deep-tissue massage just this afternoon. The skill of the massage therapist was incredible. BUT -- he talked the whole time. He started out innocently enough asking what I did for a living, which was fine -- he was just getting started at that point. But when I told him I was editor and writing he switched into overdrive and started pitching his side-business to me. His side business is glow sticks. Glow bracelets. Things that glow. Seriously, now. Don't do that. Ever. Don't start an entire business about glow sticks and don't pitch it to your massage clients when they are face down on the table and trying to relax.
posted by kate blank at 5:17 PM on September 30, 2008

Really really nice sheets really make an impression.
posted by greta simone at 6:42 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

As an LMT and a person who also likes to get massage on a regular basis, I'd have to recommend:

Clean, not drafty, not heavily perfumed room, spacious enough to move around the table, with a solid door that closes!
And in this room, there shall be:
Massage table with face cradle
Table heating pad and/or table fleece pad
Eye pillow
Extra bolsters
Hot cabi for towels
Neutral massage gel or creme and a basic selection of essential oil blends
Large sheets and towels
Chair or hooks for clients to put their clothes and stuff
Stool for the therapist to sit on
Hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, hair ties, tissues
Ceiling fan (if the room gets stuffy)
Optional: music and art on the walls, hot stone kit, sink and soap

Nthing about respecting your client's wishes about talk. Some clients, they want to know your life story, or to tell you theirs. Some people talk for the first five minutes, then are out like a light. Some people don't say a word. Some clients, I am good friends with, and we talk the whole time. Sometimes they fall asleep. I am not a hard-seller, so would never dream of pushing something on a client when they are in the position of trying to relax. That's really rude.

And put a sign outside the office that says, in polite but clear terms, to put phones on silence or vibrate only, and that you will not tolerate phones ringing during a session.

And about the time constraints, I appreciate that a therapist will spend a few extra minutes on someone, but you have to consider that the client may not have the time. Especially here in NYC, people are so tightly scheduled, that to go over 5 or 10 minutes could stress them out. One therapist who I am friends with and who does amazing work, is almost always late, and almost always runs over, and it drives me nuts.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:46 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

- Definitely blankets/heater for people who get cold. Ask at the beginning and then a few minutes in.
- Ask if there is anywhere the individual doesn't like to be touched, and respect that.
- Scalp/facial massage is great, but please try not to get oil/lotion in the hair!
- Having products available for sale is great, but don't be pushy.
- My favorite spa has lemon-water and cucumber-water in the waiting room. The cucumber water is AWESOME!
- Please have unscented products available for those of us with sensitive skin. And please wash your sheets/towels with unscented detergent (and no fabric softeners).
- No chatting!
posted by radioamy at 6:51 PM on September 30, 2008

All of these are great suggestions. I am just getting started on my massage therapy training (I'm sure I'll be on here with a few of my own questions soon) and really appreciate the insight. As a customer, I will add that if you offer showers, you must also offer robes. Really really nice cushy robes. Like micro-fiber or fleece. As mentioned above, a variety of sizes is necessary, jut try to make them all run toward the roomy side. I know that as she is getting started out, it might not be easy to reconcile expensive equipment (why by fancy sheets, when plain ones will be good enough). Remind her that this is a business where clients expect luxury. Splurge now on the fancy sheets, etc, and you'll have enough clients eventually to more than cover the costs.

Also, if it's possible to have a separate room (or at least seating area) to relax in and sip water... that's a good idea. It sucks to be rushed out the door, even though you understand the therapist has other clients to see.
posted by purpletangerine at 9:44 PM on September 30, 2008

Remind her that this is a business where clients expect luxury.

That really depends on what kind of massage you're going to be doing. Some of the things mentioned in this thread would not work in my practice. If you're doing spa-relaxation massage with aesthetic body treatments then showers and plush robes are fine, but if you're doing medical/therapeutic massage then those things are unnecessary. I never use enough lotion or oil that a client would need a shower, in fact for some of my clients who are seniors or have injuries or chronic illnesses, the exertion of showering could undo some of the benefits of massage. I do use moist heat and biofreeze though, and I have an inversion table that some clients like to use for 10-15 minutes before their massage.

Massage therapy is developing into a two-tiered career path. There's a lot to be said for pampering and luxury, and yes that's what some clients expect, but that's only one aspect of it.

To the OP, I highly recommend that your friend trade massages with as many therapists she can befriend, and that she take continuing education classes regularly. I've had a lot of massages from therapists who do exactly what they learned in school or at their first job, and not much else. Not great massages, and I wouldn't go back to some of them, even on a trade. Massage school is great for the basics, but real skill comes with practice and experience, so encourage your friend to keep learning and experimenting. There are a lot of massage-school graduates out there, but not nearly enough really good bodyworkers.
posted by headnsouth at 3:39 AM on October 1, 2008

Speaking from experience, massage in a room with open windows is great for the fresh air and distant sounds of the surf, but after a couple mosquito bites, the effect was lost on me.

I had a great massage that was combined with other 'therapy' types -- like Reiki and some kind of shamanistic thing where she saw my spirit animals. Gimmicky maybe, but it stood out for me.

Air should be warm but not too hot. Watch out for pleasant running water sounds as they encourage unconscious thoughts.

Another poster said that they didn't like oil, but I thought it was fine.
posted by indigo4963 at 6:48 AM on October 1, 2008

Please clean the holy hell out of the room and especially the sheets and towels. The oil gets in them, turns rancid, and never seems to wash completely out. Maybe the sheets just have to be replaced more often, I don't know. Nine times out of ten I walk into a massage room and the first thing that hits me is that whiff of rancid oil.
posted by HotToddy at 9:26 AM on October 1, 2008

Terrific help all, thanks so much.

The friend I posted on behalf of has been reading along and expressed gratitude for your feedback, both the reminders about some things she learned during her training and some things she hadn't thought of.
posted by mcbeth at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2008

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