Finding the right Massage Therapists for you can be hard.
There's so many personal factors to consider:
price range or budget
your wellness goals
schedule and availability
potential health risks
And there's so many professional factors to consider too:
the therapeutic approach
their education level
professionalism and presentation
value provided in each session
So the "Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist" series is here to help.
* * * This article is all about cleanliness.
Massage therapy is a hands-on, close-contact service. Cleanliness is critical. It's critical for legal reasons, ethical reasons, health and safety reasons, professional reasons, and also basic curiosity reasons. All the reasons.
We all have varying levels of tolerance with cleanliness. That tolerance may be influenced by our personal preference and choices, or it may be dictated by the need to mitigate potential risks to our health - be it allergens and/or contagions.
So when you're trying to find your perfect massage therapist, it is (or at least should be) acceptable to ask for a tour of their office before you commit to making an appointment. No need to waste your time, or theirs, if the environment where you'll receive services not a good fit.
When you arrive at the space or the first time, ask few questions and visually inspect the following key areas. Determine if this massage therapist's cleanliness practices are up to your standards or accommodate your wellness needs.
THE WAITING ROOM
Interior design and decor is an aspect that may vary greatly from one massage therapy setting to the next. In public settings, like a hospital, the decor would be largely out of the massage therapist's hands. But in privately owned settings, it may communicate what to expect or the style of massage you may receive there. Some practices may opt for a minimal, more clinical or medical aesthetic. Others may showcase various spiritual influences. And many may go the traditional and homey route, or the opposite - modern and zen.
No matter the visual style, take a look around:
Is there a layer of dust on shelving or lighting fixtures?
Do retail items look sun-faded or dusty?
Are there pest control products in sight?
Are the windows fingerprint-ridden or cobwebbed?
Any traces of unhealthy odors in the air - mold, mildew, staleness?
Does furniture have stains, wear, or tears (beyond the "shabby chic" look)
Does the flooring look recently vacuumed, swept, or mopped?
Are there candles or air freshers that may be masking unhealthy odors? Or could they be a potential allergy or scent sensitivity issue for you?
The idea is not to nitpick, walk around with checklist, and do the classic white glove test.
The idea is to get a general sense for how much of a priority is placed on cleanliness. And if there are any health concerns present. Ask yourself:
Is this space making a good first impression on me?
Am I having any initial allergy or scent sensitivity reactions?
Did I see, hear, smell, or touch anything that seems uncleanly?
What put me at ease? What made me concerned?
Has anyone ever told you that when uncertain about a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, to check their restroom before you order?
More often than not, how clean the restroom is, gives you a pretty decent idea of how clean the kitchen is. And that's likely true of most businesses in general.
If the restroom is clean, changes are there is probably a schedule to keep it that way. Or it is someone's assigned job to keep it clean. Or the staff just care about it and so it gets done on the regular. Or all of the above.
A clean restroom demonstrates there's likely a process, or a motivation, or a standard. Someone has prioritized providing a quality customer experience, every step of the way.
THE TREATMENT ROOM
Same as the waiting and restrooms - get an sense for how well the treatment room space is cared for.
Really take a moment to look around, because once you're on the massage table, you'll likely have you eyes shut or be face down looking at the floor.
If the lights are dimmed low, turn them up for a moment to make sure nothing is hiding in the shadows. Ask yourself:
What's the general state of things in here?
What's the smell? Good, bad, or neutral?
What's the airflow like? Flowing, stale, or neutral?
THE MASSAGE TABLE
In the last article of this series, I wrote a grand tour through all the layers of the massage table - blankets, sheets, barriers, heating pads, foam toppers. The works.
So I won't repeat that same information. But I will reiterate that there are many, many cleanliness concerns when it comes to the massage table.
The massage table is the point of human contact for the majority of your service and it can be a major vector for allergens, contagions, or just general ickiness. When trying out a new therapist, or taking a pre-appointment tour, take a peak under the sheets for that ever-important barrier I discuss in length in the table tour article.
Does each layer look clean, smell clean, feel clean?
THE MASSAGE THERAPIST
Your massage therapist should be cleanly. It's just part of being a professional, especially in the health and wellness field, and certainly because the job requires close contact for a decent duration of time.
Being cleanly does not mean dressing or presenting in any one particular way. A massage therapist may wear scrubs or active wear, or simple comfortable clothing, or a polo or button down, or a sundress. The type of and arrangement of the clothing largely doesn't matter. What's important is the actual state of the clothing:
Is the clothing stained or visibly dirty?
Does there appear to be oil or lotion residue from the last appointment?
Did their clothing touch you a lot during the appointment? Did it interfere with your massage therapy session?
It's one thing to have an oops, like something got spilled at lunch, but it's another thing to have stained clothing on the regular while on the job. And sporting lotion residue from a previous appointment may be a cross-contamination concern.
The same goes for hair and nails. Type or style doesn't necessarily matter. What's important for hair is that it's covered, cut, or styled in a way that it does not have contact with you or interfere with your massage therapy session. Nails should be well groomed and if long, they should not interfere with your massage therapy session.
It's also important to note that providing massage therapy is manual work. Sometimes your therapist may work up an understandable sweat. And sometimes that sweat can stain clothing, or make their hair/makeup a mess. If they worked hard to get you results, that's awesome. But if there's consistent and noticeable body odor during your sessions, that may or may not be a cleanliness issue. And you'll need to decide your tolerance for it. It could be an awkward conversation, but if the therapist is your perfect massage therapist, be honest and kind. It's worth trying to work it out.
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Perfect Massage Therapist Article Series
Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist: Cleanliness