How To Choose The Right Massage Therapist For You.
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
One quick google search for local massage therapy quickly turns up dozens, if not hundreds, of listings. Searching for a massage therapist that provides skilled, safe, and effective therapy can be a frustrating and overwhelming task. There's nothing worse than booking a session and showing up to a space that feels unsafe. Receiving a massage that doesn't meet your expectations, causes you pain, or makes you feel uncomfortable is an awful situation to find yourself in.
Thankfully, there are several things you can look for when choosing a new massage therapist to make sure you receive great, professional care and hopefully avoid any of these unpleasant situations.
"Identify your needs."
The first thing you need to do is figure out what the goal of your massage is.
If you're mostly looking to relax and de-stress, a local day spa is a great place to start. It's fairly easy to find a massage therapist that can provide a soothing, relaxing massage in these settings as they are mostly focused on providing a relaxation experience.
If you're currently pregnant or attempting pregnancy, it's important to seek out a therapist that is certified in prenatal massage for optimal safety and comfort. To learn more about prenatal massage, check out this link:
Prenatal Massage | American Pregnancy Association
It can be much tougher to find a skilled therapist that can effectively treat pain issues and modify treatments to accommodate your personal health concerns.
In these cases, it's important to look for someone that has more advanced training and specializes in your specific issues. Often times, people associate "deep tissue massage" with therapeutic pain-relief work and this can be confusing. Deep tissue is a general term that varies from therapist to therapist and actually only refers to a level of pressure. If applied incorrectly, it can be brutal and exacerbate the issues you're already experiencing.
When looking for a therapist that can provide skilled pain-relief work, there are a few key words that can indicate they have advanced training and knowledge in that field.
In general, the terms "medical massage" and "sports massage" indicate that a therapist is at least focused on providing more than a basic relaxation massage.
There are more specific key words you can look for to narrow down who in your area has an advanced practice. These include (but are not limited to and should just be a jumping off point when researching techniques):
-Trigger Point Relief
-Myoskeletal Alignment Technique
-Active Release Technique
-Structural Integration (Rolfing)
Once you've identified these practitioners, you can do more research into the specific techniques they offer and whether it is a good fit for you.
It's always okay to call or email them directly, explain what you're looking for, as well as ask questions about their practice, training, and what to expect as a client.
If they're repeatedly unavailable or unable to answer your questions, move along and continue your search. They're just not the right fit for you.
"Check out their website and social media."
Thanks to the internet, it's easier than ever to get an idea of what to expect from a massage facility before you arrive. A professional business usually has a searchable online presence with a website, Google business listing, Facebook, or Instagram accounts that are regularly updated.
Look for real photos of the business that give you insight into what the space looks like, what services they offer, and what credentials and specialties the massage therapist holds. It's best to avoid places that only use generic stock photos or have a vague online presence.
Some very skilled, legitimate massage therapists are old-school and don't have these platforms set-up. However, they generally have an established client base and only see new clients by referral.
"Read the reviews."
This one seems obvious but can often get overlooked when there's so much information available online.
Online reviews give you a pretty good idea of how a business operates and what previous clients have experienced. Make sure you don't immediately dismiss a business that has less than 5-stars. It's important to read the actual reviews and you'll often find that someone is complaining because a business didn't honor an expired coupon (or something else you might not care much about).
When reading reviews, try to get a feel for whether that therapist's style, technique, and business practices might be a good fit for you. Pay attention to whether or not the therapist addressed clients concerns during their session. Red flags include things like "they ignored my requests or barely addressed them" or "pressure was too deep and I had to keep asking them to back off". Good signs include praise for feeling heard, having their issues addressed, and good communication.
Make sure to also read the businesses response to any reviews, especially complaints. It will give you a better idea of how the business operates and whether the client's issue is a legitimate concern for you.
"Verify that they're licensed."
In North Carolina, a massage therapist must be licensed by the NC Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy before they begin to practice.
To be licensed, a person must have successfully completed a minimum of 500 hours of massage education at a school approved by the Board. The person must also pass a licensing exam approved by the Board, submit an application for licensure along with statements of moral character from four licensed healthcare professionals, undergo a criminal background check, and pass an exam on the NC Massage and Bodywork Therapy Practice Act and Rules.
Massage therapists in NC are required by law to display their current license in their place of practice. You can also check the NCBMBT website to verify if they are currently licensed and see if they are associated with any disciplinary reports.
License Verification and Status (bmbt.org)
Searching for a new massage therapist can definitely be a frustrating endeavor. Especially if you're a seasoned massage client that has grown accustomed to a therapist you love but is no longer available.
By taking the time to do a little research and following these tips, you'll be setting yourself up for success and improving your chances of finding the right massage therapist for you!
-Randi Hunsucker, LMBT #8283, PTA
NC Licensed Massage Therapist
Physical Therapist Assistant
Therapeutic Intentions Massage & Bodywork