Being a massage therapist is a great job. Research shows that 88% of surveyed massage therapists were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied with their careers. And we can see why! You have a lot of independence in your work, form positive relationships with clients and coworkers, and genuinely get to help people feel their best! But, like any job, massage therapy comes with unique challenges and risks. Massage therapists face occupational hazards like osteoarthritis from using their arms and hands a lot. Other challenges are related to working with clients and colleagues. Unfortunately, most massage therapists will experience inappropriate behavior from clients, poor communication, and general workplace issues. Here are 12 common problems massage therapists face and what you can do about them.
12 Challenges Massage Therapists Deal With
Poor CommunicationSome problems just come from poor communication. It happens all the time! Instead of being clear with what they’re looking for, clients can mislead you—on purpose or accidentally.
1. Confusion about what the client wants:There are many different styles and types of massages—just consider the difference between a Swedish massage and one from an LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) for an injury. If the client doesn’t know what they want, it can lead to problems.
2. Undisclosed injuries:Your intake form is there for a reason! If someone doesn’t disclose, say, a back injury, you could run a serious risk of hurting them further.
3. Indecisiveness:Similar to point one, some clients just don’t know what they want and will go back and forth with indecision. This can waste time and lead to an unsatisfactory experience.
4. Professional disrespect:Some clients may dismiss your suggestions because you aren’t a medical doctor or whatever else they deem reliable. This is not acceptable behavior and, luckily, won’t happen often!
Solution:With most of these, a straightforward conversation with the client is necessary. Ask them clear questions about what they’re looking for and what they need. Pull in a colleague or manager if you need some support. Undisclosed injuries, however, are more serious. While you do need to have a clear conversation to understand potential injuries, make sure to also invest in massage therapy insurance to legally cover you in the case of liability claims.
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Inappropriate BehaviorMassage therapists, unfortunately, have to deal with inappropriate behavior from time to time. While most clients are respectful, some will try to take advantage of the situation or misinterpret what is appropriate in your line of work.
5. Clients exposing themselves:After asking a client to get undressed and lay under the sheet, but you come back and they’re not covering themselves—completely unacceptable behavior.
6. Clients undressing in front of you:These are the people who don’t wait until you’ve left before taking off their robe. Again, totally inappropriate.
7. Telling you too much:Some people use their massage as a therapy session, sharing way too much personal information. They might disclose an affair or other secret, way outside your scope of work and not something you’re paid for!
8. Tasteless jokes:We’d love to never hear a “happy ending” joke again! It disrespects you and the profession as a whole.
Solution:Most massage therapist training programs will cover what to do in situations with inappropriate clients. If they’re telling jokes or sharing too much personal information, you may want to first tell them that it’s inappropriate behavior and ask them to stop. If they continue, you can end the session. If it’s deliberately inappropriate, like exposing themselves, you can immediately end the session and tell them to leave. They’ve crossed a line, and you don’t have to deal with it! You may even wish to escalate it to the police if you feel threatened and unsafe. Here’s our guide to handling inappropriate clients to learn more.
Bad HygieneSome clients have poor hygiene, making your job as a massage therapist very unpleasant! Now, things like acne or body hair are natural, and it’s important that clients are not put down for what their body is like. There are some hygiene issues, thought, that should be addressed, such as:
9. Body odor:This happens when someone hasn’t washed or, applied deodorant.
10. Conditions or Diseases:Sometimes clients will have a a rash or foot fungus that is not cleared up when they come see you.
Solution:If you’re worried about your own health (i.e., catching a skin condition) or it’s too unpleasant to continue, have a polite but direct conversation with the client. Try to maintain their dignity, but tell them you’d like to reschedule for another time.
Workplace challengesWhile many challenges come from the clients themselves, massage therapists also often work with colleagues… which has its own challenges! Here are a few general workplace challenges that can occur for LMTs and other massage therapists:
11. Co-workers who don’t pull their weight:This happens in any field, really, and can be so frustrating in a high-volume massage therapy clinic. Tasks like cleaning or doing laundry should be shared equally among everyone.
12. No-Shows:When clients just don’t show up, it impacts the LMT and everyone in the office because it decreases revenues and messes up the schedule.
Solution:This is where clear communication is, again, very important. Talk to your colleagues and establish policies and procedures for things like cleaning, no-shows, and other clinic-wide tasks so that everyone is on the same page.
Always be a proactive massage therapist
As a massage therapist, you know there are pros and cons to the job! These common challenges are something that most LMTs will face throughout their career. The important thing is to focus on finding solutions and moving forward with your work. One proactive step all massage therapists can do is to purchase massage therapy insurance for professionals and students to protect themselves from liability claims. There are a wide variety of common massage claims that can be protected under an insurance policy. With insurance, you’ll have peace of mind to get back to doing what you do best—helping your clients!