There's a lot of factors when it comes to selecting a massage therapists - their location, the duration of treatment you need, their pressure and style you desire, if they provide a belief-based or evidence-informed approach, or their pricing - just to name a few.
But before any of those factors - here's two important basics to consider:
First, make sure the massage therapist is a legitimate massage therapist...
□ Do they have a license?
If a massage therapist is licensed, they've met educational and testing requirements and have passed a criminal background check.
If they're not licensed, they're breaking public health code law, but it's also a huge red flag in terms of professional credibility.
Would you see a doctor who doesn't have a license hanging on the wall? A dentist, chiropractor, or physical therapist without proof that they've met minimum educational and background check standards?
Most massage therapists should have their license clearly displayed in their office. If not, it's perfectly within your right to ask to see it.
Or, you can look them up online. In Michigan, you can look up by name using the Verify a License website. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like when you look up me.
Aaand now you all know my middle name. :)
When you select the Permanent ID# you can also browse any formal complaints or disciplinary actions filed on the individual.
When searching, if their name doesn't produce any results it means they're not currently licensed.
□ Do they communicate professionally?
Information about the individual and their services (website, brochures, flyers, social media pages, etc) should always be clear, consistent, and relevant to massage therapy.
If their info is confusing, conflicting, off-topic, or has an overly "stock" feel to it - that's probably a flag for concern.
Some legit massage therapists may simply be bad with words or haven't invested in proper marketing, but more often than not, vague or unprofessional phrases and images allude to illicit businesses practices and/or situations involving human trafficking.
Next, make sure the massage therapist is a cleanly massage therapist...
□ Do they appear well groomed?
This isn't about fashion. Massage therapists are health care professionals and there's a standard of personal hygiene that's ethically required with that role.
Long nails can easily promote cross-body contamination; old dirty shoes may track in a variety of allergens; and soiled clothing sets a low standard for professional health-related care.
□ Do they work in a clean space?
They say you can judge how clean the restaurant's kitchen is by the state of its bathroom. The same is likely true for any business.
Just as personal hygiene is paramount, so is the space in which the massage therapy is taking place. Unkempt floors, dusty shelves, moldy smells - are all completely counterproductive to a wellness-focused environment.
□ Do they have sanitary equipment?
Here's a fun trick. Pull up the corner of a massage table to see what layers lie beneath.
Typically the layers will go something like this (from the surface going deeper):
a top blanket or duvet
a flat sheet
you lay sandwiched here
a fitted sheet
something squishy like wool or memory foam
an electric table warmer
the massage table itself
When you pull up the corner and take a gander, there's something very important that should be between all those layers: a hypoallergenic sweat barrier.
These are either vinyl or plastic and should be below the linens layers (the stuff you touch) and above any squishy/heat layers (the stuff that can't be cleaned or easily washed).
While linens are always changed after each client, it's rare squishy/heat layers can be washed or changed between clients due to their materials or for practicality.
Sweat and cooties will def soak through the linens layer and into anything beneath. All clients, every client. All day, every day.
So unless you want to be laying in the previous guy's (and the previous guy's... and the previous guy's... and the previous guy's...) dried out bodily liquids, look for that protective layer when you flip up the corner. Also, consider other equipment in the room: hot stones, warm towels, pressure point tools, lotion dispensers, etc. There should be quick and easy answers to any questions you may ask about sanitation procedures. If not... cooties abound and buyer beware.