Thursday, May 29, 2014


Most that follow my blog are aware that I work with professional athletes.  One of the golfers I work with scheduled a massage yesterday after being on the road for a while playing in multiple tournaments.  He will often get a massage while on the road.  Since this was a long trip he had received multiple massage sessions from a variety of people. I always ask what type of massage he received while on the road so I can factor that into my treatment plan.  What follows is a summary of what he told me about his experiences with massage on this particular trip.

He received 6 sessions. The best massage was at a Massage Envy. The reason he felt it was the best is because it was the only massage where someone did not try and fix him.  He said it was basic and the pressure could have been better modulated.  Sometimes it was too deep and poking and others too light. The massage therapist spent too much time on his back and not enough time on his legs but overall he was relaxed and slept better that night.

The session he complained about the most was with a “sports massage specialist” with 15 years of experience who spent quite a bit of time telling my client just how good she was and how much she knew and how she was going to get him right. The client asked if she knew who I was and she said no. The concern he had is that I write one of the top selling books on massage for athletes.  If she was an expert it seemed to him she would be well versed on the various books and experts in the field.   This was the most expensive session at $150 for 90 min.  The whole time she was giving the session she talked and called out things she was doing like NMT, MAT, MET, trigger points, myofascial release and so on. He couldn’t remember the list but he had no idea what she was talking about.  The worst of it was when she started digging on some scar tissue from a couple of prior surgeries.  By this time I was angry. I told him it was absolutely wrong for a massage therapist who is only going to see a client once to attempt to reverse any specific condition and she could have hurt him.  He said he was sore the next day and felt sluggish.  He did not play well.

The next couple of sessions were not as bad but the massage personnel did not work on his goals and jumped right into the “deep tissue” stuff.  He said, “They just love to dig around the shoulder blade Sandy like it is the most important spot. Nothing was wrong with my shoulders and I told them so but they kept right on till I demanded they stop.  My legs were sore from walking up and down hills and one girl hardly touched them.” Grief. He said the massages were a waste of money.  In addition he said one of the girls was dressed so skimpy and revealing that he was embarrassed for her.

One session was from a male massage therapist that was set up at the tournament.  The massage was OK but the guy kept name dropping the whole time about other golfers he worked with.  My client wished he would have just shut up.

The finial massage was not very good. The massage therapist was new having just graduated from school.  She was nervous and that is understandable.  The massage was at the spa associated with one of the hotels. My client tried to assure her but she just would not settle down and the massage was choppy and ineffective. At least she disclosed to my client that she was new and nervous and she did not try and fix him and she did not hurt him. She used way to much lubricant that smelled weird and he was greasy after the session. That massage was $90.   

Fortunately he dosed off  and I got into my massage zone because after this conversation I was angry, embarrassed for my profession, frustrated, concerned and disappointed.  He had spent around $500 and he was hurt, could have been hurt worse, put in a position where he had to try and calm down a massage therapist and listen to others brag and name drop. Wasn’t worth it he said.  

What is unfortunate is that I have heard these types of stories way way too often.  I have had clients hurt by massage therapists, usually by trying to fix something that should have been left alone.  I often will tell clients to be cautious about what they let a massage therapist do to them.  The so called “sports massage therapists” are often the worst.  I have had clients so sore after a massage that their performance was affected. Clients have been over stretched, dug on, and been told wrong information and hype.   I am concerned about confidentiality and really hate name dropping.  I also find it appalling what some massage therapist wear while giving a massage. How are we going to claim to be professionals when we won’t even dress like professionals?  

So now that I think I have settled down, my concerns and questions are:

What is lacking in education and professional development that these issues occur much too often?

What public education is necessary so massage clients can recognize potentially harmful methods and what to expect for professional behavior?

What are the professional organizations, especially the AMTA and ABMP, doing to continue to reinforce safe and professional massage practice of their members?

Are there any improvements that could be made in textbooks and other educational materials that would prevent these things from happening?

Where are the mentors and teachers and employers who will confront and then will work one on one with individual massage therapist who are inappropriate?

I am concerned that these issues keep occurring over and over and over. The problems are not isolated and the data collection for the ELAP identified may of the same issues my client experienced.   I know that there will always be a few people that are truly bad massage therapists and these individuals should not be tolerated. I know that there will always be a few massage therapists who are so insecure that they have to brag and make unjustifiable claims. There are always some bad apples in all professions and occupations however----This should be the exception and not common occurrence.  

My client did tell the massage therapists who insisted on doing the deep tissue stuff to stop. He did tell the one who had all the so called experience to read my books.  He is good at feedback so he does his part.

 I wonder what would happen if the CLIENTS took a stand and would not accept poor performance by a massage therapist.   Maybe a promotional campaign and a grass roots effort with massage therapists educating clients about proper professional behavior and how to protect themselves from the “egocentric fixers” out there. 

Ideas welcome.  And if you recognize anything that you do that my client described STOP IT. Also take the risk for the massage community and tell others massage therapist who are harmful and otherwise unprofessional to STOP IT.   Stuff like this cannot continue if we are going to be respected as massage therapists.  It just has to STOP!





  1. It is very hard to judge a Massage Therapist from ones own personal experience, Not everyone is a match for each other. Just because you did not like a massage does not mean the next person will feel the same way.

  2. Jessa your point is well taken however there are issues of professionalism that must be upheld.

  3. The complaints here seem pretty diffuse. To me, it sounds like your client is comparing all the other folks who work on him against your experience level and skill set. That is a high bar that few therapists, even experienced ones, will live up to.

    I think we can all agree that bragging, name dropping, and causing patients to feel worse are all bad techniques. Let us remove those from the equation because it is tantamount to saying, mechanics should fix more things than they break when they work on your car. Not really a "STOP IT!" worthy topic in my opinion.

    On style, or even professional appearance, this topic is subjective. People expect different appearances depending on setting. Because massage is usually more art than it is medicine, no two people will come at it exactly the same way. You don't compare Van Gogh to Da Vinci, or Picasso to Pollock, we all agree they were great at what they did, and leave it at that. They were also extreme rarities in a field of mediocre artists whom no one remembers or talks about.

    Education for LMTs is, to borrow from your closing picture, "Garbage in, garbage out." We measure our education in hours, not years, and we continuously focus on modality empires instead of critical thinking, clinical reasoning, or even solid basic mechanics. It is hard to expect greatness to be the standard when often students graduate one year and start teaching a few years later.

    1. I understand your comments however on professional appearance I do not think it is appropriate for massage therapists ( if we are using the term therapist) to dress casual let alone revealing. This particular client knows he will not get the same level of expertise from most other therapists however he should be able to find competence. I absolutely agree with you about the teacher situation. Something must be done about this and we all need to support the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education teacher standards.

  4. YES!! Sandy, I have been asking these same questions and noodling over solutions as well. Thank you for this and I'll jump over to the Facebook thread to join the discussion over there. Let's talk!

  5. I don't think it has one single thing to do with "liking" the therapist. It is all about MTs who are either so clueless, or have such a big ego, that they are bound and determined to do whatever they want without any consideration for the client whatsoever, and they have managed to convince themselves that they are the sage on the stage and doing the right thing.

    I was on the road one time and got a massage from someone I didn't know. Told her when I called that my neck was really bothering me. When I got there, she proceeded to work over every part of my body except where I had told her I was hurting. "This is what you need," she said. What a load of crap.

    Your skill as a massage therapist is actually secondary to your skills of communication, in my humble opinion. If you don't listen to the client, then you might as well not have one hour of training in massage, because you're not getting the job done. People need to get out of their own way and pay real attention to the client instead of doing their cookie cutter massage, name dropping and telling the client how great they are and how many celebrities they work on, and how many modalities they know. Just listen to the client and do the work.

  6. Wow this is so true to our world.....It starts in the schools and everyone needs a reality check... some of the info being taught needs reevaluating as well ...I feel your clients pain the stories I could tell..... Thanx for a great article

  7. Sandy I could not agree more. Reading some of the posts on these groups on FB make me VERY nervous obout our profession. It seems an alarming number of MT's are getting their Ts & Ds confused. We are not doctors. We cannot diagnose, cannot fix, and cannot prescribe. I find myself constantly reminding colleagues of their scope of practice.

  8. Sandy I believe it all come down to self esteem, I found when I moved to TX that the LMT's I was meeting were ready to cut down others. I also found them to brag about there biggest tip or that they are the best therapist.

    I think a lot starts at the education level, I worked with a school here in TX and there were several instructors who would brag on who they massaged and how awesome they are. They were also they same ones who cut down other instructors or professionals for their own gain. Learning by example.........

    I have found my own niche, I do not compete with anyone or brag about who I work on or with. I rarely take tips but my clients/patients find ways of giving back to me. I have a beautiful letter from a daughter about her fathers last days and a woven basket made from a young women that sits on my desk at home, who needs more then that.

    I do not try and fix anybody other then myself, I give this to those I mentor.

    PS. I have heard of you, read your books; agreed with some points and disagreed with others but isn't that what learning and teaching is all about. Namaste Kathy

  9. I am far from perfect and I have lots (lots!) more to learn after only being in the field for six years, but I have to admit that this article made me feel better about the way I practice. Upholding confidentiality, communication in understandable terms and listening to the clients treatment goals are some very basic and professional skills. This article gave me a nudge to be even more mindful of my clients' thought processes. Thank you for sharing!

  10. In my opinion it comes down to self esteem, plus the way they were taught in massage school. I worked in TX and found that some instructors bad mouth other instructors to a class (even as adult learners they will find that is ok to do) they then bring this mind set to their work place boasting they are they best I just received the biggest tip ect....

    The turmoil that is going on with in the Massage industry is not leaving a creditable feel for those who are new (NCBTMB) those who have been around a while do not feel the support we once had (AMTA) and for the those who want to talk about others and show they are they best (ABMP). No one wants to the bull by the horns and weed out the crap. Blame game is what we hear, perfect example is when we had the problem with the therapist from MN and none of the three listed above stepped in to help.

    My question would be how do we change for the better and get rid of the riff raff that has brought us to this point.

    PS. I work only as a LMT, I do not accept tips, I am a single mom with a mortgage and a car payment. I also mentor new therapist plus some who have done this for a while. I found my Niche I don't need to brag about who I work on or with. I do not fix anybody but myself and pass that along to those around me.

    And yes Sandy I have read your books, something I agree with other I don't, but that's what make teaching and learning fun. Namaste Kathy

  11. I'm embarrassed right along with you. Poor guy.

  12. Good mentoring is hard to find. I have been massaging for 14 years and still believe that I could use a good mentor to continue to grow more

  13. Sandy- Thank you for sharing your experience. I shared it yesterday (June 1, 2014) with the Sports Massage Therapy class I am instructing for the Florida State Massage Therapy Association's Sports Team. The FSMTA offers an 8 CE course that is mandatory for all FSMTA LMT's to take in order to participate in any FSMTA Sports Team events.
    As listed in the Training Manual:

    “The purpose of this manual {and training course} is to establish a uniform training program for the members of the FSMTA Sports Massage Team. As a result of the varied styles and techniques of the many therapists, it was determined that a standard basic training program in Pre and Post Event Sports Massage was needed.

    Training Objectives:
    1. Team policies and procedures;
    2. Team operations and roles;
    3. Appropriate personal conduct while at and during an event;
    4. How to prepare for and conduct a Sports Massage event;
    5. How to prepare a 4-5 minute Pre-event Sports Massage routine;
    6. How to perform an 8-10 minute Post-event Sports Massage routine;
    7. How to interact with event participants;
    8. How to recognize thermal injuries and deal with cramps;
    9. How to recognize sports-related injuries;
    10. Contraindications for sports massage;
    11. Self-care strategies for the therapist.”

    While this specific class may not address all of your grievances, it is an attempt to lay a foundation for the same frustrations other Sports Therapists have experienced like yourself. Included with the Team standards is a uniform, a FSMTA Sports Team Shirt and Kaki shorts/pants.

    We welcome all therapists to take this course and become professional members of the FSMTA. The next available Sports Training is at our annual convention held at the Renaissance Sea World Hotel/Resort International Drive, Orlando, Florida. Click this link to learn more. This year marks the 75th year anniversary of the FSMTA; 30th year for the Sports Massage Therapy Team.

    Thanks again for empowering therapist with information to increase awareness and blogging about it to connect and evolve.

    Michele Weissman, BS, LMT, NCTMB, NCNMT
    Lead Instructor FSMTA Sports Team Training

    1. Michele. I am thrilled that you shared the post and the program you outline seems excellent.

  14. Gosh, How do these therapists have the time or hutzpah to brag and chat during someone else's massage. This is MT 101. Be quiet and respectful. The body will lead you to the places that need attention. One cannot hear its voice if one is talking.

  15. I love the ABQ School of Medical Massage Therapy and Health Sciences motto "Elevating the Profession". Here I was taught to think critically about what I do and how I do it and to ask for feedback from clients before, during, and after session so as to avoid hurting anyone. This approach does help me to "fix" problems for lack of a better term. I dont know what else to call it when someone has had chronic pain that is no longer present as a result of compassionate, competent, and targeted care. My question is how do we differentiate ourselves in the market place without being results based or "fixing" bodies with maladaptive patterns of function?

  16. Tony, excellent observation. when we work with a client to reverse maladaptive function we need to know that the client is committed to a series of sessions. We work progressively evaluating benefit and adverse response session by session. Other than the particular massage therapist term loosely use would not keep her mouth shut she was only going do one massage with my client. Big boo boo.