How to Find the Massage Therapist for You
David Weintraub, LMT Owner @ Bodyworks DW, gives tips on how to choose the right medical massage therapist for you! Check it out below.
Massage Therapy is gaining in popularity and recognition as a legitimate and powerful tool. It helps to heal injuries, relieves stress, and improves overall health. However, to the uninitiated looking for high-quality care, the search for a great therapist can be daunting. There's a dizzying array of different treatment styles all under the umbrella of massage. Here is our guide to finding a great massage therapist in New York and everywhere else!
1. Find a State Licensed Massage Therapist.
If you’re not sure, ask if they’re licensed and registered with your state.
To us in the industry, this is obvious. But there are many people out there offering massage who are not state licensed, and not state registered. Licensing is important because it means there's a baseline of safety protocols that the therapist follows. These include proper privacy draping, extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and required knowledge of scope of practice.
Massage Therapy licensure in New York State requires a minimum of 1000 hours of schooling and clinical practice. There's also a comprehensive exam that must be passed.
Many unlicensed establishments offering massage are fronts for unseemly practices. Therefore, if you want a legitimate, professional massage therapist, make sure you’re booking appointments with state licensed practitioners. An LMT has specific training in communicating effectively with you about your needs. They'll make your safety and comfort while receiving massage therapy a priority.
This includes proper draping practices to make sure private areas on your body are always covered and protected. Also, an LMT has the ability explain the therapeutic reasons for working close to these areas, such as work on adductor and glute muscles, as well as more advanced techniques like working on pelvic floor muscles. And NYS licensure requires allowing you, the client, to make your own choices on what work you are willing and not willing to receive.
For New York State, you can verify a therapist’s license, at the NYS Office of Professions verification service.
2. Find out which modalities of massage are right for you.
Not all clients will need the same approach. Not all therapists use the same techniques.
There are seemingly a million and one types of massage therapy and bodywork out there. Such as, swedish, shiatsu, sports massage, deep-tissue, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, tui-na, thai massage, craniosacral, orthobionomy, reiki, zero balancing, ashiatsu, polarity therapy. As a result, if you’re not sure what something is, do some reading beforehand! Clarity is important.
Make sure you’re getting information from reputable sources, such as the American Massage Therapy Association website.
The Difference Between Deeper Tissue Styles & Energy Work Modalities
Most therapy modalities are physical (meaning the therapist applies touch to your body), such as Swedish massage. Swedish is most well-known and featured in many spa settings as relaxing massage. This is a legitimate form of overall healing that can reduce stress-related pain and other issues.
In addition, other physical modalities include sports massage, deep tissue, trigger point release, and myofascial release. These tend to involve deeper work and can feel more intense during the session but have longer lasting and more specific results. These are more related to injuries due to athletics, repetitive stress injuries, orthopedic injuries, and chronic pain relief.
Some other therapy modalities are more energetic in nature. Polarity, reiki, and other energy healing therapies may be helpful for people who can’t handle anything more than light touch. Energetic work over time can help bring you out of sympathetic (or fight/flight) nervous system reactions. In turn, it can bring you back into parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system states.
Good practitioners are fluent in multiple modalities to allow them to support a wide population of clients. Most important is that you know your own body. Know what you’re looking for. Ask questions. Be willing to create a set of boundaries with your therapist. Get a massage that you will be happy about!
3. Make sure your therapist conducts a thorough intake before you start.
Spending several minutes talking about your body and the stress and/or pain you feel will make a huge difference. As a result, your therapist can tailor the session to your needs.
Thorough Assessment is the Key to a Great Massage
Spending time on a thorough intake assessment ensures that your therapist knows the main issue you’re coming in for. It also lets you know that they're listening and paying attention with their ears. This usually translates to a therapist who also pays attention and listens with their hands. A good therapist practices professional due-diligence. They'll make sure they won’t use any techniques that could exacerbate an injury.
The intake is also the time for you and your therapist to come to an agreement about what you need. Remember, your therapist is a professional (assuming you checked off #1 above) who knows anatomy. They're trained in the therapeutic process. However, there's often a desire to simply let the therapist run the show and take whatever you get. Keep in mind that you know your own body.
A sign that you’ve found a great therapist is that they'll conduct a postural assessment as part of intake. Pain in your neck may be related to postural shifting due to an old ankle sprain or hip injury. Working only on the area that hurts may feel good at the time... But it won’t necessarily allow the pain to go away for more than a day or two.
Your therapist should take the time to assess your entire alignment, from multiple standing angles. Then, they are more likely to see the root causes of your pain and plan the session accordingly.
Calibrating Pressure with Your Therapist
Therapists are not mind readers and learning to communicate with your massage therapist is a valuable skill that will help you in other relationships. You need to let your therapist know the pressure is too light or too deep. In fact, we really want to hear that feedback from you, during the session. That way, we know we are giving you the session you want. If you aren't happy during the session, but wait until after to tell us, or worse complain our employers, we both suffer. Which is a shame because it's very easy for a therapist to adjust pressure and something we train a lot on.
That being said, if you find yourself having to continually ask the therapist to adjust the pressure throughout the session and don't feel like they are responding well, either by being dismissive, ignoring you, or simply telling you that you are wrong and should be able to take the higher pressure, than this therapist is not a good match for you and it's a good idea to try working with someone different. Technically, a therapist unwilling to adjust their pressure to a client's expressed level, or worse, arguing with you or verbally pressuring you to take more pressure is violating their licensure. And if you are constantly asking a therapist to use more pressure and they seem unable to provide that than they also aren't a good match for you and it's worth trying someone different.
But if you aren't communicating any of this to your therapist in the session itself, don't blame them for not "getting it right." You get what you ask for...
A Better Way to Agree On Pressure
If your therapist is doing their job correctly, they should ask (at least once but hopefully a few of times) you directly about pressure in the session. There are lots of ways therapists ask this, most of which I personally find to be...not that great...such as:
"How's the pressure?"
"Would you like more or less pressure?"
"Is this pressure good?"
These questions are certainly better than nothing, but often don't really create enough of a conversation around pressure to work towards a fantastic result. At best, clients will answer honestly with "good" or "meh" or "great!" or "more" or "less." At worst, they trigger people's worries about judging the therapist and the client says "it's fine..." and the therapist thinks they are doing great when actually the client is totally unhappy, and now both not getting what they want and worried about hurting the therapist's feelings to boot.
To bypass these issues and get my pressure truly on target, I like to ask the following question, towards the start of the session as I start introducing these modalities: "If I gave you a scale from 1-10, with 1 being barely touching you, and 10 being totally unbearable and excruciating, where is this pressure on the scale right now?"
The answer you give really helps me to calibrate my pressure to provide a good therapeutic result for each client, generally between a 5-7 for the majority of the session, with an occasional need to hit an 8 for very short periods (a few seconds at most), and some nicer feeling 1-4 work in between areas to help your nervous system smooth out the intensity and integrate the work.
If I think I'm giving a "5" to a client and they tell me it's a "2," I know I can apply more pressure to provide a much better result. Conversely, if they tell me it feels like an "8.7!," I know I need to back off the pressure a bit to help the client receive the work. Too much pressure doesn't actually accomplish much as the client will "brace" against it during the entire session. Too little pressure might feel good but won't provide a long lasting result in pain relief.
To get a fantastic session, be willing to share how the work a therapist is doing feels for you (with the caveat being you don't need to "rate" each and every thing that happens during the session...if you do you'll miss out on relaxing at all).
4. A great therapist should design and offer a plan to address your pain.
Massage therapy is a cumulative treatment process and generally takes multiple session to truly provide long term relief.
The best massage therapists will work on addressing the “chief complaint” you bring in that day, but also put the pain in a larger context. They will ask probative questions to help determine the root causes of your pain and help you to make intelligent lifestyle changes to help address them. Questions like:
- How do you exercise?
- What do you do for work?
- What are your sleeping habits?
- Any other activities that you do regularly that might impact your issue?
All of these questions and observations of your posture help them determine the roots of your pain and make an effective plan to address them.
Working with a therapist over a series of sessions will allow them to not just provide short term relief but also to work on the root causes of your pain. Over the course of the series your pain will decrease noticeably each session, the relief will last longer and longer between session, and with most clients eventually disappear. And you’ll learn self care methods to keep it from coming back later and manage it more quickly when it does.
The number of sessions will depend on the issue itself and each client's unique case. 3-5 for a lesser issue, 5-8 for a moderate issue, 8-12 for a client with multiple acute pains is a rough guide. Committing to a massage therapy series will make sure that your problem doesn’t just get a short term band-aid. We want your pain solved in a substantial and lasting way.
5. Do your homework.
Great massage therapists will give homework to their clients.
The beneficial nature of massage will depend on how diligently you stick to your homework. You get out of it what you put into it between sessions.
Examples of homework include:
- Awareness practices, e.g. paying attention to how often you slouch or grit your teeth at your desk, or the position of your neck as you look at your computer
- Stretches for muscles that are locked short, such as those in the front of the neck, or the front of the thighs
- Introducing movements that will help maintain better posture
Even if you manage only to do your homework once or twice before your next scheduled session, that's a good start as building better habits takes time and isn't easy at first. That is often enough to start to break out of habitual patterns of movement and jumpstart your trajectory towards improvement. As you start feeling better, the motivation to make a habit of the homework increases until they become routine. You’ll feel more personally in control of your issues. And you'll feel less reliant on your massage sessions to “get you through.”
At Bodyworks DW, we’ve already done all of the work of finding a great massage therapist in New York for you
Massage therapy in New York is different. We have some of the strictest licensing laws in the country. Each of our massage therapists has been hand-picked and trained by owner David Weintraub. We practice at the highest levels of professional massage therapy available. To keep the staff up to date, David holds mandatory trainings on technical bodywork, treatment protocols, and improving client interactions.
All of our therapists meet all of the above requirements for a great massage therapist in midtown and the financial district:
- NYS licenced
- Trained in a wide variety of massage modalities
- Conduct friendly and thorough intakes for each massage session
- Able to create multi-session treatment plans for a wide variety of pain issues
- Crafts homework practices for every client that helps them conquer their pain faster and with less time and money
We offer massage therapy in Midtown and the Financial District in New York City. Would you like to schedule a fantastic massage with one of the best massage therapists this city has to offer? Contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our massage therapy midtown or massage therapy fidi studios!