Skip to main content

Ep 371 - How to Give the Right Massage:"Business or Pressure"with Allissa Haines

A man laying face down on a massage table receiving a massage.

Communication is everything. In this episode of Business or Pressure, host Allissa Haines demonstrates how to give the “right” massage to every client at every visit.

Author Links:



Author Images
Author Bio

Allissa Haines is a practicing massage therapist and business owner and columnist for Massage & Bodywork magazine. You can find her building a community of massage therapists at





HobaCare Jojoba is a premium quality, 100% pure jojoba oil that is highly beneficial for massage therapists. As a single-ingredient product, it aligns perfectly with holistic practices, providing an all-natural, chemical-free massage medium option. Jojoba oil closely resembles human sebum, which allows it to absorb easily and deeply into the skin, delivering a non-greasy, moisturizing experience that doesn't clog pores or cause allergic reactions. This unique property makes it an excellent medium for massage, enhancing tactile contact without leaving an oily residue. HobaCare Jojoba is also shelf stable and will not stain natural fiber sheets. By choosing HobaCare Jojoba, massage therapists can enhance their practice, offering clients a superior, skin-friendly experience that promotes both skin health and overall well-being.




Full Transcript

0:00:00.0 Allisa Haines: HobaCare Jojoba is 100% pure high quality Jojoba and it is ideal for massage and body work professionals. The closest product to the natural sebum that our skin produces, HobaCare provides a deeply nourishing massage medium that will not clog pores. Hobacare is non-allergenic, so you can use it on every client and not worry about allergic reactions. Hobacare is shelf-stable and will not stay in your natural fiber sheets, making it an excellent choice for professional use and ultimately saving you money on all those linens. With HobaCare Jojoba, you can offer your clients a superior experience that benefits both skin health and overall well-being and our listeners can receive 20% off their order using the code ABMP. Learn more at 




0:01:03.3 AH: Welcome to Business or Pressure, taking the pain out of massage business with me, Allissa Haines. This is your no-nonsense guide to building a happy sustainable massage therapy business. In this podcast, we operate from the premise that we can be in a caregiving profession and make a living wage in a thriving business. It is our mission to make sure that every massage therapists and body worker has the tools to make that happen. 


0:01:31.7 AH: Let's jump in. Today, we are talking about how to give the right massage. The best client retention tool you have is to give the right massage. But what does that mean? What is the right massage? There could be a lot of conflict here between what the client wants to receive and the massage you want to give. Or the massage the client thinks they want versus the actual results it will bring. There can be conflict and confusion about priorities, experience or results and any number of factors. In my mind, the right massage is the massage that results in the client being satisfied with the experience and the time spent on your table as well as the results. 


0:02:15.4 AH: We need to talk about some examples here, 'cause there's a lot that can go on in every phase of a massage visit that will impact whether or not the client feels like they got the right message. So let's say a client comes in and you do an intake. Maybe you've done a written in take prior, maybe you're doing a verbal, maybe you're doing both, you ask a few questions and they say that their shoulders and neck are tight and maybe they have a headache on and off, or maybe they just circle that on the intake form, so you've got shoulder, neck headache stuck in your head as part of the treatment plan. So you give a 60-minute massage, and that includes 30 minutes of very specific head and neck work, all the things you know how to do for headaches. And maybe 15 more minutes of upper back and shoulder work, well assertive trigger point techniques that you know help with shoulder and neck pain. And then the last 15 minutes just kinda covers their limbs and makes them feel like they got a full massage. 


0:03:09.1 AH: So the client comes out after the massage and you say, "How is your neck feeling?" And they say, "Looser," or whatever. Or, "I can turn my head, awesome." They don't reschedule and they say they will book online, but that doesn't happen. So why didn't they come back? You tackled their needs, right? Maybe or maybe not. Maybe they left thinking, "I just want to relax and now I'm sore." Or, "I wish they had spent more time on my low back and not bothered with my legs." Did you ask their priorities or did you just go right in for the pain points that you loosely assumed and tackled them? The reverse can be true as well. Maybe some comes in with low back pain and wants deep, deep pressure in the low back and the glutes, and you think that some isolated stretching could be a better treatment option, maybe combine a little heat, and that's all going to get better results to relieve the low back pain. So you do a little bit of deep work and some stretching, throw some heat on there, and the client gets kind of annoyed that you didn't do a lot of deep work and they feel unheard. But the client doesn't speak up because, why would they?  


0:04:15.3 AH: They've already asked for deep tissue and you're not doing it, so clearly you're not listening, and the client just never comes back. Sure their back gets better the next day, but they attribute it to the new ice pack they got and a good night sleep. In the first situation, you've treated exactly what they asked for, sort of, and in the second situation, you didn't do the thing they asked for, sort of. The point here is that clarifying the treatment goals verbally to the client's face is always really helpful in delivering the right massage. Always, always, always restate the goals of the treatment, straight out ask about the priorities and get confirmation. So for our first example, this is what that would sound like. 


0:05:01.6 AH: They've told you they've got their neck, shoulder headache thing, and you say, "Would you like for me to focus exclusively on your neck and shoulders or do you have other goals?" Or you could even say something like, "Some of the specific headache and neck work is a little less relaxing. It's going to require some feedback from you as we go. Is that okay, or are you looking for a more quiet and calm treatment today?" So you have said straight out, "I know you mentioned this neck and headache thing, is that the only thing you really want me to work on? Do you want me to cover more? What's your goal? To fix the headache situation or to just be calm and quiet?" 


0:05:42.5 AH: Now, we know with all of its complexity, massage treatments can do all of these things at once even, and it could be that you do that specific headache and neck stuff first, 'cause they're not going to get to really zone out during that, you need feedback. But that's only 15 or 20 minutes and the rest of the massage can be super sedating. But talking that treatment plan through what the client is going to make sure you are delivering what they want, and even if it isn't perfect, they're going to know that they were heard and that's a huge thing. In the low back example, the clarifying of the goals would sound like, "I'd like to loosen some things up with heat and massage and then incorporate some stretching. In my experience that gets really good results with this kind of pain. It might be a little different from the deep, deep work that you have experienced in the past. Do you feel good about that approach? And we'll communicate about pressure as well." When a client feels heard, when you demonstrate that you are listening and you care, you're going to get buy-in. 


0:06:49.1 AH: That low back client is going to understand why you're not starting off by throwing elbows into their glutes. There will be a path of communication open for both of you, so you can say, "I'm going to do a little bit of deep work here, but then I want to try this other thing. I'll check in with you to see how you feel before we finish the massage." When they feel heard, they're going to trust you. Even if it doesn't meet what they thought their expectations were, but a day or two later, their low back has never felt better. 


0:07:21.4 AH: When a client feels heard, they will come back and they will tell their friends. Good, clear communication will ensure that the client gets the massage that they asked for, and usually the massage that they need too. So to sum that all up, clarify your treatment goals in the verbal intake before you put hands on that client. If they're asking for one thing, but you don't think it's going to give the results they want, talk to them about that. Meet somewhere in the middle, so they feel heard and you feel like you've treated them to the best of your ability. Clarify exactly what they're looking for. That's it, that's what I got. Clarify your goals my friend. Today's high five is going to my friend Dale. And I think it's Dale who years back gave us a tip about how to check in when you're working on a trouble spot. So let's say that client comes in and they've got the neck, headache thing. And I do all my neck stuff, I've clarified the goals. I do a whole bunch of neck stuff, and before I move on, I'm going to say, "Is there anything that you feel I missed here in your neck or anything that you want me to go back to?" We want to make sure that the client feels that we got to all the places they're concerned about. 


0:08:43.0 AH: No, I know and you know that sometimes the problem and the neck is actually the problem in the shoulder but I want them to feel like I got all the things they needed me to get to. Is there anything that you feel I missed? Or anything you want me to go back to? I'm telling you, it's magical. That's it for today. If you have a question about running your business or an idea for an episode, reach out via email at You can also find me building websites and playing with my community of massage therapists over at And make sure that you are subscribed to a ABMP podcast so you don't miss a beat. There is so much to learn about building and maintaining a massage practice. We're gonna help you cover the business and marketing side, the communication skills, and all the things you need to help you be successful. I will meet you right here for the next episode, I can't wait.