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How can massage therapists convince clients to take a more active role in achieving their treatment goals? Ask the Muscle Whisperer Series

by Samantha Jenkins May 21, 2021

How can massage therapists convince clients to take a more active role in achieving their treatment goals? 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 how they persuade clients to take a more active role in achieving their treatments goals? Read on to hear their thoughtful tips and insights!


  • SUSAN FINDLAY 
    Susan Findlay Icon for Ask The Muscle Whisperer

    How do you persuade clients to take a more active role in achieving their treatment goals? For example, how do you encourage them to complete their aftercare exercises?

    Homecare can play a significant role in furthering the success of your massage treatments but unfortunately a high percentage of clients do not make the recommended changes to their lifestyle. Why is that? A common misconception massage therapists have is that our clients actually want to make the suggested changes. They understand the reasons for doing them but look at the list of suggestions or the handout of exercises they need to perform with a wry smile whilst promising that they will do it only for us to hear when we ask how they got on at the next appointment that they forgot or were not too sure how to do them correctly. Or maybe they did them once but life got in the way and they could not find the time after that.

    These are common reasons for clients not getting on with the specified aftercare exercises, so how can you increase engagement on their part? Once I accepted that it was partly down to the role I was playing in this process I started to see a change in my clients participation. Here are a few things that I changed.

    The biggest change I made was understanding from my massage clients what they thought was achievable. I know what would be best for them, or so I think, but really my priorities or ideas about what I think is the best route to go down might not be what resonates with them. I made an important change to my approach by putting the client at the forefront of the process. So for instance if my massage client needs to be more active I would not tell them what to do, but ask them, ‘what changes can you make in your lifestyle that would be manageable for you?’ I might suggest easy things like walking part way to work, finding a forest or park to enjoy, doing a seated chair exercise boogie class (there are some really engaging and safe classes online, more so now than ever). But the most important part of this thinking process is allowing the client to come up with the idea, making it their own. They might come up with the idea of wanting to try something that has always been on their wish list, and maybe all it requires is for someone else to encourage them to go for it!

    My second suggestion is to make sure that they can integrate your ideas into their lifestyle with minimal disruption. Don’t make it a separate thing for them to do. Think of ways to incorporate whatever it is into what they currently do. For instance, if I have given them breathing exercises to do to decrease anxiety levels I will ask them to incorporate it into their night time routine, something they can do to help them relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep, or while they are waiting in line at the shop, or during a stressful moment. I avoid trying to add homecare that requires a separate time commitment that they have to put aside in order for them to do. 

    The third suggestion I have is to include an element of fun. Something they will look forward to, instead of it being yet another item on the list of daily chores. My Dad, when he was in the last year of his life, suffering with oesophageal cancer, he needed a distraction, an activity that would give some relief to the discomfort and the anxiety that surrounds cancer. He needed some humour so I sent him the Vicar of Dibley series, one of his favourite comedy shows. He was so grateful for the reprieve from the present stresses and definitely looked forward to watching these regularly.  The same goes for my clients in all areas, if it is a nutritional need, then it needs not to be so much a focus on what a client cannot do, but replacing the habit with something that they will enjoy. 

    In summary, to achieve a more successful outcome try out these three suggestions: 1. Allow your client to come up with the suggestion 2. Integrate it into the lifestyle 3. Bring in the fun factor. For more ideas please follow me on Instagram here or visit my blog www.susanfindlay.co.uk.

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

    To find out more about Susan's courses and sign up for her great Massage Monday series click on the image below or follow her on TwitterFacebook or Instagram

    Susan Findlay logo

    Susan Findlay
    Earle Abrahamson
    Sunita Passi
    Nikki Wolf
    Jayne Burke
    Jing
    Mike Grice
  • EARLE ABRAHAMSON 
    Earle Abrahamson profile for Ask The Muscle Whisperer

    For Earle the real work caring for clients starts after delivering your massage treatment. In many training courses, massage therapists are taught to simply share some advice but really this should be seen as setting an active goal. As massage therapists we should be trying to work out how they can become self-empowered to ensure they heal faster and rehabilitate themselves. A big part of that is helping your massage clients to set the right frame of mind. 

    For Earle consulting and following up online should become a new normal after COVID-19. This online interaction helps build relationships with clients. Earle uses a lot of virtual resources as well as Whatsapp groups to engage with his clients. He does this through an active follow up. Rather than telling them what to do at the end of his massage treatments Earle gets his clients to record him demonstrating the exercises and then afterwards Earle asks them to record themselves doing the exercises at home. This enables Earle to give extra feedback and extra resources or let them know they are ready to advance to a new stage.






    Another key to encouraging clients for Earle is to set SMART goals.

    Specific

    Measurable

    Achievable

    Realistic

    Timely 

    These goals should aim to stretch clients a little but should be straightforward and achievable before their next massage session. For Earle massage therapists need to develop a back-up plan in case clients are struggling to hit their goals. This ensures we are still motivating our clients and encouraging them on their journey. Clients appreciate this personal approach, and it demonstrates your value to them clearly. Capture their attention by thinking creatively with your resources. Try to find something that you think they will respond to and is particular to them and you will be setting yourself up for success!

    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.

     

    Publications:

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

       

        • Concise Manual of Muscle Testing - Handspring Publishers. Due out October 2019 
      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice
    • SUNITA PASSI
      Sunita Passi

      For Sunita this is the perfect question as Ayurveda is a system of practices. The basis of encouraging clients to engage with these practices is our own understanding as massage therapists of what they are trying to achieve. This cannot be superficial but needs to be understood on a deep level. Some clients might only want a massage treatment occasionally, but others might be more interested in self-care in general. These are the ones you can interest with your after-care suggestions. Once you have an idea of what they are looking for you can plan self-care practices or even a program specifically for them but only after getting to really know what they are after.

       

      In the past Sunita has given clients a homework diary and encouraged them to write down their practice. This puts awareness into the action and makes it easier for them to see their goals are being met. If they can get into a practice of doing their homework task at the same time each day and make a note of how it makes them feel it really reinforces their progress. Plus, once they next come in for a massage treatment you can see their progression and what is working and what isn't. Sunita also suggest if they have a particular goal they want to achieve get them to display that goal prominently, on the fridge for example. This will really step up their motivation and help them move past any blocks they might be encountering. It helps them recognise and reinforce what is important and reminds them to stay committed to their practice. It takes 40 days to create a habit and the more you can hold their hand and keep them motivated the better!

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

      To check out all Tri-Dosha has to offer, including Sunita's newsletter, give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

      Tri-Dosha logo

      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice
    • NIKKI WOLF
      Nikki Wolf joins Ask The Muscle Whisperer from Massage Warehouse

      For Nikki achieving treatments goals is a case of how do we get our massage clients to do their homework? This homework can be exercises, meditations, anything we think would help enhance the effects of their massage treatment. Nikki suggests 3 methods to help clients with this. 1. do they understand why they should this homework? Are they clear on what benefits they will get out of it? Making sure they understand clearly what the reasons are behind their homework is crucial to clients feeling incentivised. 2. Do they understand how? Talking clients through an exercise is not enough. Demonstrate it yourself and give your clients resources so they can refer to them later and do not forget.

      3. The third method is the most impactful for Nikki and that is to create a program for your clients. This isn't a package of treatments, a program is a number of certain of treatments but is more of a structure of support for your massage clients. It’s goal orientated with an outcome you are trying to achieve for your client. It includes the treatments but also the homework and this helps clients make the link that the homework is part of the process of getting towards their goals. It also helps them to understand that they are not just paying for the treatments but also for the resources and your ongoing support. This helps the client because they are more invested and motivated in achieving their goals and it helps you as a massage therapist because generally you will get a better outcome from your treatments because they are doing the after care. But also, more importantly they will pay more because it is easier to show your value! All round these are better clients to attract as you help hold them accountable but they are empowered to take care of themselves and it removes the pressure of you needing to fix them in one session!

      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

      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice
    • JAYNE BURKE
      Jayne Burke joins Ask The Muscle Whisperer from Massage Warehouse

      For Jayne while we can do amazing things as massage therapists during our treatments, what we need is for clients to keep up to good work afterwards. Even something as simple as a few slow deep breaths can really help them to reduce stress and slow down from their hectic lives! Jayne uses a prescription style pad which she fills out and gives to her clients. This way they have a physical reminder of her advice that they can take away and keep referring to before their next massage appointment. Jayne has also sent clients a checklist or has had them put reminders into their phone.    

      Jayne also recommends linking the exercises or advice to an activity, so it is easier to remember. For example, if they need to drink more water suggest that every time they pop the kettle on they have a few sips of water. Before long they will have had a glass or two without realising! Similarly, if each time they are at the sink after using the toilet they use that time to stretch out their shoulders, over time these little habits become ingrained! Jayne is currently uploading the short courses that she shares with clients to her website, so give her a follow to check these out when they go live!  






      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.
      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice
    • JING ADVANCED MASSAGE TRAINING 

      For Meghan Mari from JING encouraging clients to do their aftercare exercises has always been part of the challenge of being a massage therapist. Research has shown that if clients do exercises between massage treatments the outcomes will be better. So how do you encourage them? If they are the sort of client who is interested in research, show them the research! It’s a powerful tool but finding something that appeals specifically to them is key! It’s also really important to commit to a long-term approach together with your client. Outlining from the start the number of sessions they will need and how they will need to participate with homework in between is an important boundary to establish. Coming at the process from an empowerment point of view is key. The client needs to be clear they are part of the process and that the days of expecting to be fixed by one treatment are over!

      Another aspect that has been neglected by many massage therapists in the past is the need to demonstrate and engage with the exercises yourself! Handing out a leaflet is not going to engage your clients. You need to show them what they need to do but also engage in the process with them by finding out what they like to do! Do they like dancing? Could you incorporate their interests into the plan for their recovery? Overall exercises and after-care need to feel part of the process, not an add on to their massage treatments. For Meghan its crucial that massage therapists believe in this! Ask yourself when was the last time you had a massage or did your stretches? What engages client’s commitment the most is a massage therapist who can speak from an authentic place. So walk the walk and you will find it much easier to speak passionately and inspire your clients!

      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  

      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice
    • Mike Grice

      For our latest Muscle Whisperer Mike The key part of the question is ‘their treatment goals’. This is the first question he asks (What are their expectations/goals) and Mike frames the whole treatment session around it. Obviously goals can shift and may need to be reframed if unrealistic but once all serious pathology has been explored, your assessment should be geared around their goals and expectations for the massage treatment.

      Mike finds that if the treatment session and subsequent exercise/movement selection is fun and meets the client's goals and expectations then patients are much more likely to do what you have suggested because it is a collaborative rather than prescriptive approach.

      As massage therapists we are starting to realise that our therapy is much more than touch alone and we play a key role in educating our patients. However, we don’t usually receive training in how to deliver education. Everyone, patient and therapist, has a different starting point in terms of their own education and there will be a multitude of factors that influence the reasons behind why we do or don’t respond to different ways of communicating information. Imagine trying to deliver all of your knowledge from years of training and experience in the first treatment session to someone who has never studied the body. Then imagine expecting them to completely understand what you’ve told them in the next session in a weeks time! It would be like asking someone to learn a new language in an hour and then be able to recite it fluently the next week. Mike thinks we have to drip feed our clients information over time, build trust and confidence so that they can gradually comprehend this new information.

      Another trap massage therapists can fall into is that we may also project the way that we like to do things, or the way that it has worked before, on to a client in the hope that they will respond in the same way. We’ve all heard about patients who’ve been handed an exercise sheet and then they’ve never done them. It’s no wonder. This approach completely lacks personalisation. Exploring their thoughts, beliefs, previous history and experiences and finding the right pathway for them is key. For Mike making aftercare meaningful to each individual client is vital!

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

      Click here to find out more about Mike's work with Movement Therapy Clinics or you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram

      Susan Findlay
      Earle Abrahamson
      Sunita Passi
      Nikki Wolf
      Jayne Burke
      Jing
      Mike Grice



    Samantha Jenkins
    Samantha Jenkins

    Author



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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!

     

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