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 on value per session.
The cost of massage therapy services varies substantially. But when you're shopping around, it's important to look beyond just the dollar price. Evaluating the total value gives you a bigger, better picture of what you're getting for your time and money.
TIME WASTED OR TIME SAVED?
Something to consider from the get-go when selecting a massage therapist is how your time is spent when interacting with them.
What's it like to schedule?
Are there multiple modes of communication options and you can pick the one that works best for you? Or are your forced to use the one they prefer?
Can you schedule or reschedule appointments online to save time and also make them whenever, where ever?
Are you constantly waiting for a reply, or are replies prompt?
Do they have availability that works well with your calendar? Or do you have to spend extra time rearranging other commitments?
Is it easy to get there?
Is their location convenient for you? Near work or home or on the way?
Is there bus access or close dedicated parking? Or is it a hassle to get to the office?
How's their time management?
Is the massage therapist often frazzled or running late?
When you show up, are they ready for you? Or do you have to wait?
Do you receive the amount of hands-on time as advertised? Or do they sell you an hour but only really provide 50 minutes of therapy?
Time is money - and is sometimes even more valuable than the cash itself. So if your time is ever not respected, wasted, or it's just a downright hassle, you're probably getting less value for your sessions than you think.
There are many different businesses that provide massage therapist services:
Solo practitioners / micro-entrepreneurs
Co-opt group practices
Day spas and salons
Fitness centers or gyms
Local / regional / national franchises
The model that business falls under may impact the value of your session. Some examples:
Larger franchises may be able to offer a predictable and consistent experience - for someone who isn't looking for highly specific or personalized treatments, this can be very valuable. But on the flip side, these business often have much more frequent staff turn-over, so there is less opportunity to benefit from the value of consistent care from the same massage therapist.
Chiropractic offices can often bill your insurance - which may be very valuable if your health insurance plan covers massage therapy. But conversely, many offices also require you receive regular chiropractic adjustments as well as massage. Which, if you already do, bonus. If not, the financial value gained may be quickly eliminated.
An individual practitioner can often provide a highly personal service, but then may lack the wide variety of scheduling options a larger practice with more staff can provide. If it works and you like the idea of supporting a small business - you'll likely feel the value is high. But if not, could be a less attractive option.
Getting a massage at your gym may provide the value of convenience and saved time, but may be a loud or distracting environment to receive the service.
There's pros and cons to each business model. And there's plenty of ways each may provide you with more or less value per session that goes beyond simple price.
BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER CARE
There's a lot of value to be experienced (or not) before your massage session even begins:
If new, do they ask about your health history?
Are there forms to complete, or are they taking notes?
Is your primary concern or goal talked about? Do you feel heard?
Are past issues or treatment progress tracked?
Are they curious and engaged in the discussion?
Do they develop a treatment plan for the session?
Do you feel like you and your primary concerns are going to be addressed? Or do you feel like you're just another appointment on the calendar?
If your massage therapist is conducting professional intakes, they are likely providing more value to each of their client.
By asking about health history and specifics related to why you came in for a massage, they are ensuring the massage is safe.
By developing a treatment plan, they are communicating they've understood your goals and giving you the valuable opportunity to correct, adjust, or make additions.
By the simple act of being engaged, they are more likely to provide a more effective, more valuable treatment than a general-purpose cookie-cutter massage.
There's even more value to be had (or not) during the massage treatment itself:
Does the massage therapist ask you if you're comfortable? Temperature, pillow position, air flow, music volume - all can really make or break if you get the most out of your time.
Do they ask about pressure? Do they provide more or less based on your expressed need, and not just their assumption?
Do they move actively create movement or stretch in your joints - engaging more structures and tissue than just a passively applying friction to the skin?
Is there good time management during the treatment? Are your goals and areas of concern addressed well?
Are the products used (lotions, table warmer, oils, sheets, music) during the massage of good quality and complement the value of the over all service? Or are they cheap or distracting? Do they cut corners? Or do you feel well cared for?
Do they charge extra for the use of certain products (topical muscle revilers, essential oils, heat therapy) or techniques? Or is the price all-inclusive?
Do they demonstrate knowledge or experience that is a good fit for why you seek massage therapy in first place? If you're an athlete, are they athletic or at least familiar with the common issues athletes may face? If you're seeking stress relief, do they have a personality that you find calm and soothing? If you have chronic pain, do they have knowledge about the nervous system and specific education that can address the complications that come with long-term pain?
While there are countless styles and approaches to massage therapy, these are some basic questions to ask yourself to assess if you're really getting the value you need out of your session. While price may give you a blunt generally idea of the quality of a massage to expect, it is certainly not always the best guide or indicator of what will happen while you're on the table.
And then lastly, there's plenty of value to be had (or not) after your session is complete, but before you leave:
Does the massage therapist ask specific questions about how you're feeling post-massage. Not just a general "how are you?" but specific, like, "do you feel greater range of motion in your neck now?"
Do you receive handouts, fliers, or brochures? Do you get something in your hand that will extend the value of your session to at-home care?
Does the massage therapist provide verbal or physical demonstrations about certain stretches or movements or self-care tools and strategies that may be beneficial to your primary concerns?
Is this a setting where a gratuity tip expected, anticipated, or customary? Thus adding to your total cost per session. Or do they have a no tipping policy that makes the cost up-front and transparent?
Some massages can feel like a "wham, bam, thank you ma'am" with no or minimal follow up. Massage therapy is therapy - there should always be even the briefest post-evaluation. And if there an in-depth, specific, and thoughtful post-care, that can be incredibly valuable.
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Perfect Massage Therapist Article Series
Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist: Cleanliness Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist: Value Per Session Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist: Scheduling Finding Your Perfect Massage Therapist: Location