I think most people expect to have their health and lifestyle probed by a therapist when they go for their first complementary therapy treatment but have you ever asked yourself why we go through the list of sometimes very personal questions in a massage consultation? It’s quite simple really – to make sure it’s safe to give you the treatment you’ve come for. Whether a relaxation or a remedial style massage – it is perfectly safe for most people however there are a few medical conditions that it’s not safe to massage – these are called ‘contraindications’ to massage. I shall explain what some of those are a bit later.
Other than your name and address, DOB etc, your therapist will ask you questions about your lifestyle – how much you exercise, what sort of exercise if any you do and also what you do for a living. For someone like me who works with a lot of clients who have pain due to poor posture and overusing certain muscles, it is essential for me to get an idea of what actions you do repetitively and what kind of soft tissue injuries you may have suffered in the past. From this information, I know which muscles need to be worked on so the client gets the most of the time they are paying for. This is what is known as a holistic approach to a massage treatment – looking at the person as a whole, not just their symptoms.
Going back to those contraindications, if a client says they suffer from some of the following, caution has to be taken by the therapist and in some cases, it is not advised to massage the client:
- High or low blood pressure – I would take caution here as massage can cause a further drop in blood pressure so the client could feel very dizzy after. Precaution is necessary when the client is sitting up and getting off the couch.
- Diabetes – massage can cause a drop in blood sugar so I would not massage if the client was feeling unwell or if they had not had their insulin shot if this is how they control their diabetes. Because of the loss of neural sensitivity sometimes with diabetes, I also wouldn’t massage too deeply. Caution is also necessary when the client gets up from the couch as they could be dizzy.
- Acute inflammation – either from a recent injury or unknown cause, massage can not be done on inflamed tissue – it is advised to seek medical advice if the cause is unknown or if an injury, it should be rested and iced until the inflammation has reduced.
- Serious diseases such as cancer – the therapist would usually ask the client to check with their GP or consultant to check if massage is advised.
These are just a few conditions that a therapist would need to know about and hopefully the reasons why are clear. If you are unsure about a condition you have and whether it is safe to have a massage then just ask your therapist. Remember, any information you give them will be entirely confidential.
Finally, one of the other important reasons for a consultation is to find out exactly what you, the client, wants to achieve from your treatment. Be honest if you don’t like deep massage work and want something quite light and relaxing, that’s fine – your therapist can adapt the session to suit. The goal of a consultation is to find out what you need and hopefully be able to meet your expectations.