How to Choose the Right Massage for You and Leave Feeling Happy


Submitted 3 months ago
Created by
Katie Donovan

I have had wonderful and painful massages.  I love them, but have grown wary of them.


I asked Joan Townsend, a licensed massage therapist, for advice on how to choose the right massage so that I can avoid another uncomfortable experience.  I learned a lot and hope you do too. Here are the lessons I learned:


Lesson 1: Understanding a Bit about Massage Goes a Long Way

I realized quickly after reading Joan’s advice that one of the main reasons I experienced a poor massage was because I didn’t understand how massage works.


I had all these preconceived notions about this gentle relaxing experience (which I learned is the Swedish massage), but I also wanted to have the tension in my neck and shoulders worked on (which is more deep tissue).  


While I’m sure you can have both, and a wonderful experience, I thought I thought if I was sore then it didn’t work right.  When in fact the opposite can be true! If you’re getting the kinks out and working tight muscles, then it makes sense that they would be sore.  I feel silly now. That makes sense.


Joan’s Tip: “If you want some areas worked on where the pressure is a little more deep to free up a stiff shoulder or sore low back then usually you can expect to feel sore in those areas for one to two days but not bruised or more than that or the therapist should ask you to come back to flush the area lightly.  It is okay to feel sore if the therapist is increasing circulation and moving out the metabolic waste from the tissue being worked, BUT only if YOU want it worked out like that. I usually have my client follow up with me after two days so I can see if I need to follow up with a quick flush massage so the soreness goes away. “


Lesson 2: Communicate with Your Massage Therapist

In past massages, I thought pain was my friend when it came to relieving tension, so I didn’t say anything. I should have said when it was too much pressure. I should have explained I wanted a bit of both.


The last massage I had, I did and I think it was a nice balance of relaxing and relieving tension.  


Joan’s Tip If you’ve never had a massage or had a bad experience: This is a great question but also tricky… Always communicate with the therapist. If the pressure is too deep tell them!  Remember this is YOUR massage. If you want relaxation the therapist should keep it relaxing. Again, this is your massage so you can control the pressure. The tricky part is experience on the therapist part.  When I first got out of massage school I was going to HEAL the world!! I would work deep but over the years I really have learned to go with the client and give them THEIR massage. Massage is always moving and has a lot of teachable moments.  I have been massaging for 29 years and still am learning. You could sign up for three swedish massages and I’m sure they would all be different.

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The key is to be sure you and your therapist are a good match and it may take a few massages to find the right one for you.”


Lesson 3: Find Out What You Like: There is a Massage that is Right For You.

Maybe you had a Sports massage when you really wanted a Swedish massage.  There are so many different types of massages to explore and there’s one that’s right for you, whether you’ve never had a massage, had a bad experience, or just want to try something new.


Joan’s Tip: “There are TONS of different massages.  To name a few there is a Swedish Massage (relaxation), Sports Massage (stretching and deeper pressure), Rehab Massage (post injury some deep pressure mixed with lighter strokes), Reflexology (feet & hands), Pregnancy Massage ( pregnancy massage after the 3 month mark), Polarity ( energy work, Shiatsu Massage ( squeezing and on off pressure), Hot Stone Massage ( being massaged with warm stones), there are so many types!!”


Lesson 4: Local Recommendations are Great

People have varying needs, so if lots of people recommend the same massage therapist, chances are they can give you a stellar massage because they tailor to their client and have a lot of experience in different types of massage.


Joan’s Tip: “Usually it’s good to ask around and see who others recommend and types of massages the therapist offer.  The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is a good reference to see how is in your area that offers massage. You want to be sure they are licensed to practice in the State so you know the therapist has had training to massage.  [You can also ask] local massage schools...your chiropractor, or physical therapist.”


About Joan

How long have you been doing massage?  

“I have been massaging for 29 years and have fun my own business successfully without advertising. I also keep my CEU’s current and are required for all therapist.  I do deep tissue, relaxation, rehab, hot stone, pregnancy, reflexology, and I tend to gear my practice towards what my clients needs are. I do not charge a different price for a different massage instead, I incorporate all my techniques into the one massage and try to do what the client needs.  I may work shoulders with more pressure and less on the legs or concentrate more on the neck and head to relieve headaches or tension. “


Anything else you think potential customers might want to know… 

“Always remember to communicate with the therapist.  If they are good they will take any feedback you have and adjust the massage to you.  I have also been “beat up” but part of that is trying different types of massage and different types of therapist.  I know what I like now and tend to go to therapist that give my type of massage.”

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