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How to handle a challenging massage client? Ask the Muscle Whisperer Series

by Samantha Jenkins July 02, 2021

How to handle a challenging massage client? Ask the Muscle Whisperer Series

We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders to share a challenging situation they had with a client and what lessons it taught them that they have carried throughout their career as a massage therapist? Read on to hear their thoughtful tips and insights!

    Earle Abrahamson profile for Ask The Muscle Whisperer

    For Earle the most challenging client he has faced was born out of misunderstandings during the consultation phase. At the time Earle was asking questions in a mechanical way and his client wouldn't answer. This led to Earle thinking this client was being difficult and one point he even told the client that if they could not answer these questions Earle was
    unsure if he would be able to help them with his massage treatments and that he had other clients waiting for a spot. At this stage the client said that they would go elsewhere if that was Earle's attitude. Realising he had unintentionally upset his client Earle reached out with a call. What Earle discovered is that the questions he was asking didn't feel relevant to the client or how they were feeling at that moment in time.

    Earle learnt that it would have been better to have allowed the client to speak and listened with clinical curiosity. Having picked up on what issues you can work on together he could then invite them to take an active role in exploring treatment together. With so much information we need to gather for our massage treatments with a list of questions on a page we can end up making a client feel overlooked as a person and neglect the more emotional aspects of our work. The clinical curiosity approach makes the client feel cared for and builds trust. While this started as Earle thinking this difficult client was maybe not suited to his clinic has led to a total transformation of his processes and a deeper therapeutic relationship with his massage clients. As massage therapists Earle invites us to question the way we question and see what it can do for your massage therapy business!

    Watch Earle answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!

    You can find more details on Earle's latest book 'Muscle Testing – A Concise Manual' by clicking the images below or find out more details on the next Hands On Training courses by clicking here.



      • Making Sense of Human Anatomy and Physiology - Lotus Publishers 2016


        • Concise Manual of Muscle Testing - Handspring Publishers. Due out October 2019 
      Earle Abrahamson
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Nikki Wolf joins Ask The Muscle Whisperer from Massage Warehouse

      For Nikki there have been a few challenging massage clients along the way! On the whole these tend to fall into two categories. The first type is massage clients who don't respect your boundaries. Whether that's not respecting your time boundaries, your personal boundaries or professional boundaries as a massage therapist. While the behaviours might be different your response should always be the same! Be sure of your boundaries and then be firm and hold your ground.

      The second category cropped up around Nikki feeling uncomfortable around treating clients with certain conditions or issues that
      she felt she didn't have the experience or knowledge of. At the start of her career Nikki treated lots of types of clients in order to build up her massage therapy business and to gain experience. While this is totally normal it left Nikki in the stressful position of feeling out of her comfort zone when approached with a condition she didn't have experience with. The decision to pick a niche and focus on certain issues really turned this round for Nikki and now means she attracts clients who's problems she feels she is an expert in and can offer them a really fantastic service.

      Watch Nikki answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!

      To find out more about Orchid Massage Academy, click here or find more details on Nikki's mentorship program, here. Alternatively you can follow on Facebook here

      Orchid Massage Academy

      Earle Abrahamson
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jayne Burke joins Ask The Muscle Whisperer from Massage Warehouse

      For Jayne the most challenging situation she has faced with a client actually applies to many clients! The client in question starts off really keen. They really want to move forward and deal with their issues but after booking in their first massage appointment they keep calling to cancel. There is always a reason, the kids, the car etc and it would have been easy for Jayne to give up and walk away from this client thinking they aren't the right type of client for her massage therapy business. 

      But Jayne persevered! She kept in touch and continued to be of support where possible and what Jayne learnt is that there is a sequence to her clients decisions. When the time is finally right and they are ready to make the commitment to their health, they do. They reach a breaking point and suddenly nothing is more important than prioritising their health. Jayne was happy that she was patient and waited for the client to be ready. The client in question is now committed to their progress, extremely happy with Jayne's massage treatments and has made tonnes of progress and referrals!

      Watch Jayne answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!

      Click hereto find out more about Jayne Burke Holistic Therapies or you can follow on FacebookTwitteror Instagram.
      Earle Abrahamson
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke

      Rachel and Meghan agree no clients are difficult they are challenging and there to teach us lessons! For their example they share a client from a member of JING's mentor group who had an amazing treatment but then calls up to ask why they are in more pain. Rachel shares that she has also experienced this herself and that lots of massage therapists encounter this issue because our work helps clients drop the mask or pretence that they have around holding pain in the body. Once they make the decision to tackle that pain and commit to a treatment plan they can no longer ignore the pain or symptoms they have been feeling for a long time. 

      Establishing the confidence and the language to explain this in a clinical way is really important. Being able to clearly state that you will need more than 1 treatment to fix any chronic pain issues and that it is common to experience an increase in pain around treatment 2 or 3 as they begin to acknowledge what is happening in their body can help you to keep the client and build trust with them. If you come across this issue be confident, speak from the heart and continue to keep kicking ass with your awesome treatments!

      Watch Rachel and Megan answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!

      To see JING's upcoming training courses please click on the image below or follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

       JING Advanced Massage Training  

      Earle Abrahamson
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke

    Samantha Jenkins
    Samantha Jenkins


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    Massage Table Size Guide

    Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!

    A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.

    The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because

    1.  They are smaller in size (normally around 61cms wide) and as such have less materials
    2. They are sold by specialist retailers who also sell anything else they can import and turn a profit on. As such they just buy the cheapest massage tables they can find in China. They go for smaller sizes as they are cheaper.

    Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.


    The Width of the Massage Table:

    Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.

    Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.

    Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.

    Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.

    If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:

    Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.

    measuring the width of a massage table

    Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.

    The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.

    You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.


    The Height Of the Massage Table

    Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.

    A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:

    1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
    2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
    3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
    4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.

    The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.

    You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!

    There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.

    1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):

    If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.

    2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):

    The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.


    Massage Table Shape:

    The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.

    1. Rectangle shaped with square corners 

    This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.

    2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners

    Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.


    3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient 

    A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.

    This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.


    4. Hour glass shaped with sharp gradient
    Same as point above but instead of the it gradually going from wide to narrow, the massage table changes quickly from normal width to narrow width so people of very short stature can get in close.
    5. Oval Shaped

     The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.

    oval massage table


    Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!