Have you gotten a massage that wasn't great? It may not have been great for your therapist either! For the last 15 years I've been operating a chair massage kiosks in a natural grocery store. In my practice I always make every effort to listen to what my client needs. I always ask. I also always ask what kind of pressure typically feels best for them and ask them to let me know about pressure. Recently I had a client and the massage didn't go well.
This client said her neck and shoulder were the issue and she liked medium pressure but once I started the 20 minute chair massage she didn't seem to be relaxing. I asked, "Is this pressure good or do you need more or less than this?" She said it was fine but kept fidgeting and moving her arms a lot. She was raising them to rest on the face cradle and lowering them back to the arm rest. I asked again because it really didn't seem that it was right but again she said it was OK. I cued her to take a few deep breaths to try and relax and let go of her muscles. It felt like a struggle the whole time and it felt really uncomfortable. It really didn't feel like I was meeting her needs. She seemed uncomfortable and it made me uncomfortable. I definitely read her body wasn't relaxing but I had no idea what I should be doing differently to make it a more enjoyable experience. After the massage she went to customer service and asking for a refund for the massage, which I understood but I still wonder what was wrong and what I could have done different to make it a better experience for us both.
This massage reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite books Discovering The Body's Wisdom which says "The world's greatest massage therapist cannot relax your muscles unless you let go from within. . . . Your body therapist serves best as a hands-on consultant, facilitator, intermediary, agent, or catalyst, providing the input your body needs to reorganize itself - What you do in the session is just as important as what the therapist does." Receiving and giving a massage is relationship. Sometimes it seem like clients just bring their body in and drop it off like a they're dropping their car off at the mechanic. Fix me massage therapist, I'm checking out. To get the most out of your massage working with your therapist makes the experience so much more beneficial.
1. FIND A THERAPIST YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH. This is a reason why chair massage can be a good way to test a body workers out. It's usually a shorter and less expensive than a table massage and it gives you the opportunity to see if you like the therapists style before moving on to table work. Having a good rapport with the therapist will really help you in relaxing and healing.
2. BE PRESENT. Rather than checking out during your massage it's good to stay aware and present with your body. As the therapist is working you can keep your awareness on the area they are working and focus on bringing your breath into that area. This will allow you to be able to give the therapist feedback about the pressure and you will notice areas you may not have been aware of holding tension and emotion. As you notice areas of tension you can continue to focus your awareness to relax the area, directing your breathe and actively relaxing. Obviously sometimes you may want to just zone out and that's great too but if there is an area you often have pain or disfunction it can be very helpful to stay present during the massage and assist the therapists to create the most change and healing in your body.
3. COMMUNICATE. Hopefully the bodyworker will do a good job of doing an intake and figuring out which areas you need focused on and/or avoided. Sharing injuries and surgeries is important too but it's really important to communicate during the massage if your needs aren't being met. It can be hard to speak up and hopefully your therapist will check in but you shouldn't be silent if the pressure isn't hard enough or too hard. Simply saying, "I could use more pressure then that," could go a long way to getting a massage that really makes a different.
Every body is different and I've found it's impossible to judge a book by it's cover when it comes to the kind of pressure people like but when it's not great massage really feels like a waste of time and money. If you're happy with what ever you get then feel free to check out and relax but if there's something in your body you'd like to change find a therapist you feel comfortable working with to really create a positive change.