The Real Reason You Might Be Unhappy with your Massage Therapist

By Lizz Pugh, LMT

I browsed my Facebook page on a  lazy Sunday morning and came across an article about The Silent Marriage Killer That’s More Deadly Than Sex & Money.

I read it.

And I agreed.

Not only did I agree, I thought that a similar concept definitely applies to the hundreds of people I’ve talked to about massage who didn’t like a therapist.

The “TLDR” or “Too Long Didn’t Read” version of the article above is that it’s not sex, money, or communication that kills a marriage. It is unmet expectations.

BINGO. Unmet expectations are what kills a lot of business relationships as well.

In other service industries, this is an issue that’s easy to spot.

Painters come change your home to a fresh new color? Did they do a great job? What if they got mixed up and used the wrong color. Your least favorite color. It’s easy to see that, “I expected a pale grey and you painted my whole house a bright orange.”

If you go to the hair dresser and expect to have your long hair trimmed and end up with a pixie cut… again, it’s a clear case of you expected something different.

Whether or not a massage is “good” is much more subjective.

One of the best ways to get your perfect massage therapy session is to set the expectations in advance. (This advice goes for BOTH the massage client and the licensed massage therapist!!!)

If you haven’t been doing that (or if your therapist doesn’t ask you the right questions) you could find that your experiences as a massage client are falling short. The therapist is too chatty, the room is too cold, you didn’t feel any better than before you came in, the music was irritating, the pressure was too light, they hurt you, etc.

It doesn’t help that our industry fails to educate the average consumer. In Florida we are licensed healthcare providers; massage therapy is a very broad umbrella. It encompasses over 2000 different “modalities” and has the potential to be very confusing.

Spas and massage therapists in the Sarasota area tend to have nicely laid-out menus with a wide variety of service names. The average consumer, however, has little idea what most of those really mean. And honestly? Things like, “Deep Tissue Massage,” drive us therapists crazy. None of us can agree on exactly what it means.

So, let’s start with easily defined expectations:


  • How long will the massage be? Remember, an “hour massage” in our industry could mean as little as 50 minutes. Read carefully to see if the service, “includes time for the client to dress and undress as well as for a consultation.” At Mad Science Massage, all of our services are the time advertised. Our 75-minute CBD oil Massage is truly 75 minutes. If you count time to dress, undress, and talk with the therapist, it’s closer to 90 total. If you aren’t sure when you book a massage service, be sure to ask.
  • Where will the massage take place? Some places have multiple locations. Other therapists will come to your home. Be sure you know exactly what address to show up to.
  • What is the environment like? The massage school student clinic is performed in a large room with curtained areas. You may be around ten other people. Some studios are set inside a gym or in an office space, which can be noisy and intrude on your experience. Our office in Lakewood Ranch is fairly quiet most of the time.
  • Who is your massage therapist? If you are rebooking a massage be sure the spa you call for a massage appointment knows exactly who you want to see. If you don’t care who you see, share some more information (like listed below) with the receptionist so that they can place you with the best fit. You may be okay with any massage therapist or you may need one with extra certifications and specializations.
  • What does the massage include? Mad Science Massage offers complimentary Alchemical Blends of essential oils. Other places may charge $10-15 more for an aromatherapy upgrade. If you want hot stone, a foot scrub, etc. don’t assume it’s included in the price. Be sure to ask. We also offer heated massage tables, weighted sensory blankets, and other complimentary amenities.
  • What is the cost of the massage? Massage therapy in the Sarasota area can range from $70-$90/hour for a basic massage. (Yes, you can find less expensive places and definitely more expensive. We are talking averages here.) Does the therapist accept gratuities. Yes, the franchises may have less expensive services, but tips are almost always expected. They make up for the low pay rate and therapists rely on them. Sole proprietors, medical massage practitioners, and owners may not accept tips. Most therapists deeply appreciate gratuities and it’s generally based on 18-20% of the service. Some spas include this amount automatically in the total. Be sure to ask.


Now that you know how long your hands-on experience will be, where you’re going, who is working on you, what’s included, and how much to expect to pay, let’s talk about some other criteria to avoid unmet expectations with your massage therapist.


  • What are your goals for the massage? What are you hoping to accomplish? Is it relief of pain, relaxation, improved range of motion, pampering? This is critical to discuss with your therapist.
  • How do you want to feel after the massage? How will you know if the massage is successful and was worth your time and money? This is similar to the goals question, but not exactly the same. If you are going to a sporting event that night, it’s important to let your therapist know. If you are about to leave on a ten day cruise, you may not be okay with a little soreness the next day (which can be somewhat common).
  • What type of pressure do you find enjoyable? Even if you are getting a deep tissue massage it should feel good. Massage may be sore, tender, uncomfortable AT MOST. “No pain no gain” is outdated and doesn’t match up with what we know about pain science today in 2017.
  • What type of techniques do you like? If you’re a newbie, you may not actually know. If you’ve had a lot of massages you may know that you adore stretching, trigger point work, rocking, specific pressure, broad pressure, etc. Be sure to give your therapist a guide to what you do, and don’t, enjoy.
  • Do you want a full body massage or only certain areas addressed? A sixty-minute massage that’s a full body massage with “extra attention” to the neck or back may be disappointing. Perhaps a focused session, or a 90-minute massage, would be better.
  • What are your favorite parts? For most, the scalp, neck, back, hands, and feet are the ones that feel decadent and pampering. Athletes and runners may really enjoy calf work. Feel free to ask for more time on your favorite areas and less on the ones you don’t care about as much.
  • What type of music do you relax best to? Believe it or not, some people loathe massage spa music. At Mad Science Massage we will play whatever music you like. We’ve done massage to Queensryche Radio, Reggae Radio, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and more! Many franchises only allow the music they pipe in.
  • How should you communicate with your therapist? We believe in co-creating your massage experience. You’re welcome to speak up anytime for any reason. Some therapists like a 1-10 scale for intensity, others like traffic lights, and others have you breathe through their muscle mashing and don’t allow whining. (We don’t recommend the latter. It goes against pain science.)
  • Do you like to chat? It’s YOUR session. You can talk as much or as little as you want. Tell our therapists to shut up at any time. (Be a little nicer than that, but seriously… the only “required” talking is when we check in to ensure your comfort.)


Here are a few other “Things you May Want to Know” about booking your massage and setting expectations so that everyone is on the same page:


  • Florida is a very heavy trafficking area. If you come across something “shady” or are offered illicit services, please be sure to report the location to the Board of Health/Board of Massage and potentially the police. You could literally save someone from a life of forced acts.
  • In Florida, EVERY massage therapist is REQUIRED by law to be licensed. You should see their license hanging in a visible area, with a current date, and a photo. Be sure to report unlicensed activity.
  • Certifications are important, but be aware that the ONLY thing that is regulated by our state is whether or not someone is a licensed massage therapist. Certifications could mean that they took an online course, weekend class, or that they completed an additional 500-hours of study and presented case studies. National Certification doesn’t mean anything other than the therapist registered and paid extra money with the association.
  • Clean draping is REQUIRED to be offered and available to every single client. Less draping may be used only with “informed consent”. That includes consent of the client AND the therapist. We will allow minimal draping; the front of the lower torso and the “fifty yard line” in back stay covered at our clinic as a company policy.


If you’re ready to book a massage session near Lakewood Ranch in our Sarasota Massage Laboratory, where we allow plenty of time for you to discuss your goals with our LMTs, call 941-676-3433 or book online.

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