Finding the right Massage Therapist 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. So 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 start 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 your appointments whenever, where ever?
Do they take multiple days to 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?
Is it near work, home, or on a route you take often?
If you arrive by car, is there close dedicated parking?
If you do not arrive by car, is it close to bus access or within walking/biking distance?
Is there office accessible and easy to get in and out of?
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 full amount of hands-on time as advertised?
Do they ever reschedule your appointment last minute?
Time is valuable. The most previous non-renewable resource you have. So if your time is 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 branded experience. For someone who isn't looking for highly specific or personalized treatments, this can be very valuable. For example, many big chain spas train all their staff to give the same "signature" massage - no matter the staff member or location you visit, you can come to expect a certain quality and experience. 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 in addition to the massage sessions. Which, if you already do, awesome. But 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 of a larger practice with more staff. 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.
Basically, 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:
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? Or are your symptoms disregarded?
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 clients.
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 absolute 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. Price may give you a general idea of the quality of a massage to expect, it is certainly not 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 revolving door experience, with no or minimal follow up. Massage therapy is therapy - there should always be at least a brief post-evaluation. And if there's an in-depth, specific, and thoughtful post-care conversation, that can be incredibly valuable.
* * * Need additional guidance on other factors related to finding your perfect massage therapist? Check the rest of the articles in the series below:
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