43 Reasons I’ve Hated a Massage (and why you should speak up)

Posted on January 20, 2016 by Allissa Haines

I’ve gotten a lot of massage in the last 16 years. From students, new practitioners, well-seasoned therapists and instructors. I’ve gotten massage in spas, clinics, school, trade show floors and home offices. I’ve been worked on by practitioners who knew I am also an MT and by those who thought I was just a marketing consultant.

Of them, there are just a handful that I remember as truly spectacular.* Yeah, I’m a persnickety client. When I’m slapping down my money, I am super picky and highly critical. Check out this list of massage complaints I’ve wracked up in my years as a massage consumer. (The complaints are mostly in my head, I haven’t always expressed them to the therapist or establishment. More on that later.)

  • There was no intake form.
  • There was an intake form, and the therapist commented negatively on my medications, suggesting that if I got more massage, I wouldn’t need an SSRI.
  • The therapist didn’t give me instructions on what to wear/not wear or how to place myself on the table.
  • There was no knee or ankle bolster.
  • There was no pillow for under my head.
  • The room was too warm.
  • The room was too cold.
  • The music was too loud.
  • The music was too soft.
  • There was no music.
  • The music included water noises/nature sounds/chanting monks.
  • The massage table was hard.
  • The face cradle didn’t adjust.
  • There were no tissues in the massage room.
  • It was noisy, I could hear other clients coming and going.
  • The therapist didn’t address my neck/shoulder/knee or whatever I specially requested. Or they did address it, but didn’t spend enough time there.
  • Or they spent too much time there, but skipped the secondary issue I pointed out.
  • Or they spent too much time there, overworked the area, and I was bruised and sore.
  • The therapist used too much pressure.
  • The therapist didn’t use enough pressure.
  • I asked for more or less pressure and the therapist acknowledged my request but didn’t actually change the pressure.
  • The therapist told me to breathe through the pain she was causing.
  • The therapist initiated conversation.
  • She lifted the sheet way up when I turned over, making me feel exposed and cold.
  • I made a request to adjust the heat/music/pressure and the therapist seemed put out.
  • The therapist’s hands smelled like cigarettes.
  • The therapist used a ton of oil and left me greasy, or got lots of oil in my hair after I requested that not happen.
  • Cheap, low quality massage oil or lotion.
  • Got scratched repeatedly by long fingernail.
  • The therapist used a scented product without asking me.
  • The therapist sniffled through the whole massage and I’m pretty sure her nose dripped on my back.
  • The office was dirty.
  • I used a gift certificate for a 60 minute massage and upgraded to a 90 minute massage. I was charged the full price of a 30 minute massage ($50) and not the $20 balance between a 60 minute massage ($80) and a 90 minute massage ($100). I’m still pretty pissed about that one.
  • The therapist sold nutritional or health products or gave advice out of their scope of practice.
  • The therapist commented on my tattoo/stretch marks/apparent fitness level.
  • With no warning, the therapist left the room in the middle of the treatment, then came back. Never said why.
  • The therapist made fun of me for snoring.
  • There was no hook or stool for my clothes, had to just pile my clothes on the floor.
  • The therapist told me the names of all of our colleagues who she had treated.
  • The therapist spoke negatively about other clients.
  • I saw her take cream from a bowl that was clearly used with the client before me and obviously cross-contaminated. Ditto that for tubes that haven’t been wiped off.
  • The tube or bottle of lotion was noisy. Every time they went for more. Every. Time.
  • The therapist didn’t leave a towel for me to wipe off with.

With all this said, let’s take a moment to appreciate that I’ve also given some lousy massages in my career (mostly at the beginning, I hope). I’ve probably even committed a few of the offenses I complain about. (Not the nose-dripping or cross-contamination, I promise.)

Moreover, I also realize that many, many of my complaints could have been resolved quickly if I had spoken up. Sometimes I do. Other times I feel like it’s futile. That’s on me. Kinda. It’s also up to the therapist to create an environment where I feel comfortable speaking up. That hasn’t always happened.

But my long career as a really picky client is part of what makes me a better massage therapist now. More importantly, it’s what makes me very receptive to your feedback. I know how annoying it is to put your money and time into a massage and not feel satisfied with the experience. I know what it is to leave a massage office feeling like the therapist missed that ‘one spot’ between my shoulder blades that I really wanted worked on.

When you tell me the pressure is too much, I won’t ask you to breathe through it. I’ll back off and find a better way to treat the area. If you’re cold, or warm, or hate the music, I’ll make it better. When you tell me, I won’t be annoyed or put out. I will not think you are high-maintenance. If you make a short conversation and I get too chatty, I will not be offended if you cue me to hush up by saying, “Okay, I’m gonna be quiet now so I can enjoy this massage.”

When you make a request, I will be utterly pleased that you are speaking up, so I can make the experience perfect for you. For reals.

See you on the table soon!

*I’m talking to you, Takashi at the Massage Envy in San Francisco (Matreon). April 2014, you were fresh outta school and ah-maz-ing. And shout-out to my local peeps Christina & Karleen, yo.