One of the most important parts of a massage is getting the pressure just right for the client – so important that they will come back again and again and also tell ALL of their friends and family members about you. But how do you get the pressure juuussst right for every client.
Well honesty you probably don’t but you can try.
The challenge is that everyone feels things differently and at different times. What feels good to one person is of course too much or too little for others. It can vary for the same person on different days too. Someone can come in feeling more tired or stressed and may feel less or feel more! The amount of pressure needed also varies by body part most of the time with backs in general needing more pressure and areas that may be more sensitive are the arms and legs.
You have to first ask clients questions about how much pressure they like – but that also can be tricky as people will often say things like “I can take a lot of pressure”. They may have been going to someone who does energy work or really light work and think that is deep work. You don’t really know where they are coming from when they say this and it also depends on just how deep your work is – how much pressure is deep to you.
Different areas of the body will need different pressure. The pressure can also feel different on different days so you need to do this most every time until you can gauge it on a regular client.
Figure out the meaning of pressure to the client and explain your theories on pressure and how much pressure you think you use in a session. That still might be confusing or just not right.
Just asking is the pressure OK usually does not really help get the pressure just right.
You have to ask them more specific things like:
- Is this pressure deep enough?
- Is this pressure too much?
- Do you want more or less pressure?
Also if a person says something like Oh that is tender – you have to ask – do you want me to stop or lessen the pressure?
Pressure isn’t usually a yes or no situation until you get it just right!
I also have this theory that even if you ask about pressure that people still won’t tell you the truth. They often assume that you should know best and that they should just take the amount of pressure that you dish out. They do this because of transference – the power differential that occurs in a massage/client relationship. People can also usually tell that you can find those ‘spots’ with your hands that are the knots or tight muscles so they assume that you know what it feels like too and that you must know what you are doing and must know more than them. It is part of wanting to be taken care of that everyone really has deep inside of themselves. When people haven’t had some of their early needs for attention met, this can be more of the case.
There is also something that happens to many people when they are massaged. They go into what I call a ‘trance’ state or go deep within to a place of peace and relaxation that they can hardly speak and don’t want to speak. It might be related to the wanting to be taken care of or it is just how people feel.
Then you have to be able to clearly tell people what you believe massage should be like as far as pressure goes. This is also related to client’s past experiences of massage and varying amounts of pressure. I have been to therapists who were supposedly very experienced practitioners whose schedules were filled but their massage was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life – every moment my skin felt like it was being ripped off and it was so painful I could not speak to even say stop. It was that extreme. I have been to people who I honestly can not figure out what they are doing and feel like they are wasting my time with doing stretches or warming up the tissue so long it feels like the massage is going to be over soon. What are your clients’ experiences and how can you explain what you do or would like to do and combine that with what they want and what they need in order for it to be an aaaammmmaaaaazzzzing massage?
Working to get the pressure just right needs to be more direct and be done without taking up too much time. I think it is best done by just putting your hands on someone and beginning. If you need time to warm up the tissues, tell them what you are doing. “I am just feeling for areas where I will need to work”.
Start applying more pressure as you go and ask something like what does this feel like to you and if you think you are doing a medium pressure ask for their feedback in terms of does this feel light, medium or deep to you so you can get an idea of what their levels of pressure are. It can help you get on track.
You may also have to define what pain is – how much is too much? If clients think that it is OK to be in pain the day after and that no pain is no gain and you have a different philosophy -you will just have to explain that. Or can you do more pressure when you think it isn’t OK so that you will have a regular client?
What is more important – getting clients and giving them what they need/want or doing what you think you need to do despite what clients want?
I see so many massage therapists who also get caught up in thinking that they know what is best for clients and probably end up losing clients because of that.
Working together with a client is what giving a massage is really about. Can you go with them when they want more pressure than you think?