How Does this All Work – Part 3

Posted on June 19, 2016 By

How Does This All Work -Part 3:
The Pre-Massage “interview” with your therapist.

Quick Review:

  1. Schedule ahead of time – same day appointments are rare.
  2. Block off enough time in your own schedule for the whole event.
  3. KEEP your appointment – or give at least 24 hour notice of cancellation.
  4. Arrive on time (or a little bit early).
  5. Arrive clean (check those feet!)
  6. Complete your Health History form, answering all questions.

In our last “issue“, we discussed some of the many reasons why your massage therapist asks you to complete a health history form.  At the end of that, I acknowledged that some of you may be worried about the privacy of your confidential medical information.


As healthcare professional, we observe many of the same practices as any other healthcare professional.  We know that your information must stay secure for you to be able to feel safe providing the information we need to do our best work.

Therapists who adhere to the standards set by any of the Associations for massage therapists keep your records in confidential files.  We keep those files in secure file cabinets.  In order for us to share these records with anyone, including your doctor, we need written permission from you!


Confidentiality is a lot like privacy.  Most of us follow the same guidelines that your doctor, psychotherapist, or lawyer follow:  Whatever you tell us in the course of our sessions is held to be confidential.  We will not disclose that information to anyone without your express written permission.  In short, “What you say in here, stays in here.”

That means that if we are working with you in cooperation with your doctor or your physical therapist, or other medical professional, you will need to sign a form to allow us to discuss your sessions with them.  Even if you were referred to a massage therapist by a doctor, we’ll still need your express permission to tell him anything!

Many of us act as though we are already governed by HIPAA regulations.  Under HIPAA, we aren’t even allowed to acknowledge that you’re our client without your permission.

What to tell your therapist

Once you’ve filled out your forms, or when you arrive if this you’re coming back, you therapist will likely want to talk to you about what is going on with you, and what you’re looking for that day.  This conversation may happen in an ante-room, or in the treatment room itself.  (note, this is not the time to start undressing).  In either case, it will happen where you and the therapist cannot be overheard.

The more specific you can be, the better. But don’t hesitate to tell your therapist anything that might be relevant.  This is one of those places where extra information is unlikely to hurt anything, but not enough information could cause problems.

  1. If you have an allergy to anything that might be used in a massage oil, please remind your therapist at your first visit and at your second, even though it should also be on your intake form.  By your third visit, your therapist should know.
  2. Changes to your medical history.  If something has changed since the last time you filled out the huge ungainly form, say so.  If you’ve had an injury, illness, or changed medications, that will be important information for your therapist.
  3. How you experienced the work that you and the therapist did the last time you were there.  If your therapist did focus work on your shoulder, report on how that worked out, and how your shoulder is today.
  4. What’s troubling you today.
    • Physically:  if something hurts, or you are finding that you’re stiff, or don’t have full range of motion, tell your therapist.  Even if its not the main reason you’re there.  You’ll be amazed at how many parts of your body are connected in ways you didn’t know about. (Sometimes, shoulder pain starts at the opposite hip, for example).
    • Mentally: if you’re under a lot of stress at work, or having a hard time focusing, or finding your mind racing through a myriad of thoughts when you’re trying to sleep, your body also suffers. There are certain styles of massage that can help this.
    • Emotionally: again, if you’re under stress at home, with relationships, or any other reason, this affects your body.  There are types of bodywork that can help you.
    • Mental/Emotional Health:  if you’re suffering depression, or anxiety, let your therapist know.  It will change the way he or she structures your sessions — and will allow yourself another opportunity to heal
  5. If you have something right after your session, and time or appearance is an issue:
    • If you have an interview, or business meeting, you may want to alert your therapist not to mess up your hair more than necessary.  Or ask him or her not to work on your face.
    • If you really need to get somewhere quickly after your session, let your therapist know.  You can relax more easily knowing that someone else is watching the clock. Also, your therapist can adapt the ending of your session to help bring you back to full alertness more quickly.
  6. If you’re ticklish.  Sometimes, ticklishness is actually a sign of very tight muscles. Sometimes it’s a sign of sensitive skin.  If your therapist knows that you have a ticklish zone, it is possible to adapt the approach to that area to avoid the ticklish response.
  7. If you have areas you specifically do or don’t want to have worked on.
    • If you feel very uncomfortable with someone touching your abdomen, tell your therapist.  Many massage styles include abdominal work.  But one of a Licensed Massage Therapist’s first rules is that we touch only with permission.  Just because you choose to get a massage doesn’t mean you’ve given anyone carte blanche to touch you where you don’t want to be touched.
    • If you feel uncomfortable about having someone touch your glutes (your bum), say so.  It is likely that your therapist will want to work your glutes if you have leg or back issues, because those really are large muscles that have a lot of far reaching impact.  Even so, it’s your body, and you can say no.
    • If you have a particularly troublesome area, please tell your therapist and ask for extra attention there!
  8.  What you’re looking for out of this session.  I ask my clients “How do you want to feel when you leave today?”   Its surprising how hard that question really is.  But if you’ve reported reduced range of motion in your shoulder, but really just want to feel mellow and relaxed, your therapist may spend more time resolving the shoulder issue than you’d like.
  9. Finally, please!!! ask any questions you may have!  It may not be the time to have a discussion about who to vote for in the next city council election, but if you have questions about massage or bodywork, this is a great time to ask.

Looking forward:  Getting on the Massage Table

Looking back:  Part I: Booking an Appointment,  Part II: the Health History Form

Broader Issues