Managing Massage Expectations

Expectations and preconceived notions can get in the way of receiving care. I do a lot of things in my practice that are new to most people. Regardless of your knowledge of healthcare and fitness, if you are coming to see me, there are things you don’t know about dysfunction in your body. Whether I get a new referral from an online search, a family member or a teacher’s website, I try to offer everyone the best and most appropriate work to permanently ameliorate their symptoms. Client bodywork is based on postural, functional and biomechanical assessment of the whole body as well as the signs and symptoms presented. I often make quick clinical changes to a person’s body that blow most people’s perception of how the body works away. Curiously, for some folks, demystifying neurological phenomena isn’t enough. I get a lot of smart frustrated folks who are in pain or discomfort and don’t understand what is happening to them or why. Their doctors don’t understand what is happening to them and they can’t end their patient’s suffering with what they know. Many people come to me because they read reviews of people who have seen me or had my work. Chronic pain creates a desperate and unfortunate existence to be forced to maintain. Clients even tell me of their doctor’s inability to find what is physiologically wrong followed by recommendations to seek psychiatric help. In their diagnosis, their patient’s body is fine. Many scientists and healthcare professionals themselves are skeptical to foreign possibilities. I don’t know if it’s based on experience or if they have been ground down by years of maintaining the status quo. I can only speculate. Because I work for myself, I don’t have any vested interest in anything except getting people to feel better so they can refer a friend or family member.

Managing expectations

If you are used to the gratification of a quick chiropractic adjustment or the soreness of a deep massage, you will associate your experiences with any relief provided. What happens when you are stuck in a chronic spot where you aren’t getting better? The adjustments get more frequent and the massages and foam filling get deeper but you don’t keep improving. Sometimes you get worse. A lot of people say they like when massage hurts because they know it’s “doing something”. Truth be told, when your muscles are doing well, massage doesn’t hurt. The pain associated with massage and stretching is a sign of how many problems you currently have, not “how good” the work is for you. 
How do you know who to believe? 

I recommend new clients come in and see for your self but I want you to know that the first session gives me more info than you. Many people who don’t return for follow up sessions don’t get the full benefit of the depth of the work and many people seek to understand what is happening without my years of training. Unfortunately most people’s baseline for treatment is based on what little help that they have received over the years. I don’t do “patchwork massage” for symptoms, rather I reset the body back to a balanced functional place. I recommend a four session commitment to change based on my experience with new clients without a personal referral. 

When a business does something new, some old clients stop coming back. Some new first time clients are also last time clients. It’s to be expected when you change a product, but some desperate people seek my opinion only to reject new ideas. I present new information based on discoveries in neuroscience and my 17 years of clinical experience.  Some people decide I can’t help before they experience how I can help them. Some don’t expect (or even believe) in miracles but still decide not to invest the recommended four hours to feel a change. The treatment is designed to work whether you are compliant or not. I am open about my expectations and I care about ending human suffering whenever I can. I love what I do and I help bring an end to most of my clients physical suffering. You can always have doubt in new things but it takes some faith until you experience the change in your body.

Do you want to know what’s happening in your body or do you want to feel better?

This is something I realized was an important question to ask clients. I realized that soon after I came to my own epiphany. I thought to myself, “do you want to know how everything works or do you want to help people?” I spent my whole career studying because I believed I could better serve my clients. I didn’t know until recently that I could get so far by embracing a completely different (but all inclusive) perspective. I could do it because I recognized that I was looking at the negative space of my preconceptions. The gestalt of learning the functional neurology behind musculoskeletal issues was a mind blowing experience that wed my gnosis to my intuition. I had no idea that I could learn so much and also didn’t know what I would learn. I am used to learning new concepts. Not everyone is.

I expect expectations

Managing expectations has become a huge unexpected part of my job. Everyone handles their stress differently. I try to meet people where they are. Sometimes you make an amazing connection. You feel like you understand the person’s issues completely and they trust you as a clinician. When you say you can help people who have been to all sorts of medical professionals, doctors and other specialists without success, you open yourself up for a challenge. The hardest challenges can come from new clients on day one. Chronic pain is often pervasive and messy. It is kinesthetic, emotional and traumatic, not logical or rational. I try not to get frustrated when I’m trying to help someone and they are unknowingly getting in the way of me doing anything for them. Pain is confusing and isolating but so many people live with it. I have heard the same story every week in my office for the past 16 years. I get it. I may be able to help.


Trust me (but i’m not a doctor)

Some people spend 30 minutes or more of the 60 minute session talking about what other people they went to have done. I don’t usually find it useful to go into depth about what people who couldn’t help them told them about their condition. It is unfortunate but after time becomes understandable when “they” don’t have any answers. This is when expectations become cemented. People desperately want to know that you are going to help them but no one has been able to so far so they already have doubts. Sometimes more fatalistically, the question shifts from “if” you can help to “how” as if they don’t believe you can actually help. Sometimes the discussion is going on in a way that is not conducive to changing your prospective new client’s current situation. I’m all about advocating for yourself and understanding why someone’s going to do what they’re going to. I would also be realistic and give someone more than a half an hour to try and help the situation they lived with for a long time if I really wanted to make change. What do you expect to happen if you don’t try?


There are no stupid questions

Some people never find answers to their questions. The question I had was “why can I make people feel better but pain or discomfort returns?” I wanted to learn why symptoms returned in chronic cases regardless of the form of manual intervention I used. After 12 years of studying and manipulating soft tissues, I started learning other things not in most massage therapists skill set. PDTR  was one of them. Many therapists, doctors and patients don’t get beyond beyond the knowledge of “tight” or “loose” muscles and joint hypermobility. The information I gained in the past four years is new to most people regardless of their field. This dense body of neurological information was completely new to me. Up to this point I already had six teachers of manual and massage therapy, movement and exercise. I also had martial arts and chi-kung instruction for over 20 years. I got my questions answered and I integrated what I learned to make my work more efficient. I’ve studied for 16 years and accumulated over 15 thousand hours of providing therapeutic touch to people. I’ve always been open to learning more about how the body works and that’s how I advanced to my present understanding of the body. The neurological issues affecting our autonomic nervous system are keeping us dysfunctional and making muscles not work properly. It is key to target the disorganization in the nervous system that keeps us from being able to heal.


Know thyself

For some, treatment is as easy as laying on the table and receiving. For others, a new skill must literally be learned in order to receive. My guess is that this is an all pervasive issue that when addressed, will help all aspects of someone’s life beyond the discomfort or pain they have. Inflexibility is not helpful nor is rigidity. Neither word is ever used when describing strength, health or fluidity of movement. Whether you allow the work to happen and see for yourself or you “get in the way” trying to understand why no one else does this or why this will work, it is usually reflected in the quality and speed of your recovery. If you are trying something new without a referral, you are likely desperate for help. Chronic issues are an unrelenting source of mental fatigue and constant physical pain and discomfort.  Being in chronic pain is like living with a rare disease that no one quite knows how to treat.



After thousands of dollars and years of treatment and therapies that did little, you likely have trust issues.  You don’t know what will help but hope for your sake there is an answer. Some people give up hope and others continually rely on the advice of people who have yet to help them get out of pain.  Stepping out of their constructed reality (comfort zone) where they can find stability knowing where they stand is hard. The certainty that things will not get better can be easier on the psyche than keeping hope alive. I think maintaining a positive attitude about treatment most certainly helps but I don’t think you have to believe in something or have faith in it for it to work. You just have to put in the work and things will change. I am a Native New Yorker. I understand skepticism. I am just open to the possibilities of change and I move my expectations out of the way when I want to learn or change something. Hold your expectations and allow for something magical to happen for you.



2 Comments on “Managing Massage Expectations”

  1. Great blog! Yes I agree massage is the answer to most people’s pain and stress! After 15 years being a therapist I’ve seen plenty of people’s stress and pain disappear with regular massages! 🙂

  2. Hey a GREAT thorough blog of information to digest! Yes I agree most people don’t understand massage therapists. They don’t get how we can help them get better and out of pain! I know alot of massage therapists are not created equal. We all have different modalities we learned over the years… some good and some to be honest are crap! I am like you I just want to learn the most about the body so I can better serve people!

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