Massage Trends

Massage Therapy can feel like a trendy business at times. It’s always fun to read spa menus to see what the latest, hottest treatments are. Quite often these are variations or repackagings of established practices. Nothing wrong with that. Hot/cold therapies, body scrubs, aromatherapy, therapeutic products, to name a few, have been around for thousands of years. And this is for good reason. They can be very effective.

Creatively highlighting certain therapies on a menu can be a great way to make them more accessible to potential clients especially if they can be positioned as an introduction to more intense or expensive treatments. Likewise, a seasonal twist to a regular therapy can be very effective to bring a timely therapy to the forefront or alter it in order to address seasonal issues like a sinus soothing massage during spring and fall.

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend on spa menus that I find puzzling at best. Deep tissue or medical massage has been distinguished from Swedish or relaxing massage and surcharged for it. Pregnancy massage is targeted as a specialty technique and charged accordingly. Aromatherapy is being added, again, for a price. This practice of targeting and splitting massage sessions disturbs me and my sense of a business practice. I am not speaking of specialty massages like hot stones or body treatments. These are truly separate experiences with additional expenses, specialty products, training, and time considerations.

“Deep tissue” is a tricky classification. At heart, it indicates a firmer touch used to bring about a change in the client’s condition. I believe, most clients use deep tissue to mean just that. But deep work to one can be relaxing touch to another. Further complicating things is the fact that touch is modified depending on the area of the body the therapist is working on. An individual may be able to tolerate deeper work in some areas and not others. Furthermore, a client’s tolerance for firmer work may change session to session. Also, “not for nothing” as they say here in South Philly, Swedish techniques can resonate very deeply in the body so equating it with light touch is a dis-service. To distinguish deep tissue as a separate classification of massage makes little sense to me.

Pregnancy is clearly a specialized condition with the practitioner altering their approach to reflect the needs of the client specifically positioning, bolstering, and massage style. The client should be comfortable with the therapist’s training and experience before working with them. So far so good. The charging of additional fees for pregnancy massage is where you lose me. I’ve asked the reason for this and not gotten, what I consider to be, a good answer. I’ve heard pregnancy massage requires specialty training. Most massage programs cover basic pregnancy massage. A specialized pregnancy refresher course can be taken but this fits into the continuing education requirements for the massage professional. Required CE courses can cover a myriad of topics designed to hone the skills of the practitioner.

I’ve heard that pregnancy massage is surcharged “for liability reasons”. This completely mystifies me. Massage is absolutely indicated for most pregnancies as a safe and effective way to deal with many of the physical issues (and some of the emotional ones) of carrying a child. To cite liability as an issue with this works implicates the opposite. It also seems to indicate that the therapist who engages in pregnancy massage is somehow being penalized on their liability insurance. I have never been asked by my carrier, how many pregnant ladies I work on. This is simply a non issue. Pregnancy, like every other condition a client brings with them, should be considered and designed for within the normal massage session.

Aromatherapy is a time honored way of enhancing the massage session. Bodywork is a sensual experience with touch as a highlight. Scent and the sense of smell, however, is very powerful and an incredibly effective way to add more therapeutic detail to the work. To withhold it seems contrary to the therapist’s goal of providing the best experience possible. Good essential oils can be pricey but I’d rather find a way to include it than put out the possibility that you may be experiencing something less that the best massage available.

A massage therapy session is most effective when it has the freedom to address the individual client’s needs. I come from an improvisational theatrical background and find these skills of great value in my massage practice. I use all my education, skill, tools, and experience with every client and in every session. When you walk through my door, you are my one priority and everything I have goes to fulfilling the goals we’ve set for the session. I do not surcharge based on your needs or your depth requirements. Quite often, we don’t have a complete picture of what these are, until we’ve done a session together. Quite possibly it all boils down to business philosophy. I hold an individualized approach and customized work to be of the utmost importance in my practice.