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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dunkley

How Do I Know if Massage is What I need?

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Sometimes clients looking to book a treatment ask if massage is what they need, and if it will fix their problem. These are key questions people want answered before booking in for a treatment, but they can be difficult to answer because:

1 - without a full consultation and movement testing it’s difficult to understand exactly what you are experiencing and therefore predicting if my service is the most appropriate for you (there are of course some situations when I’m confident massage can help, but more complex situations make this difficult to commit with certainty).

2- there also needs to be an understanding of what massage is, as well as the role you play as the person receiving hands-on work and advice. Click here to listen my 3 key messages that all clients should hear before their massage (it’s 6 minutes long but it has the potential to completely change you’re understanding and expectation of massage, which will help you get the most out of it, now and in the future).

Okay so in some situations I can’t fully commit if massage is going to be exactly what you need before I see you, so why should you book in? Here’s three reasons…

1 – Although, as a massage therapist, I’m not trained in diagnosing injuries, conditions and syndromes, I can offer an assessment to help determine which treatment type is best for you. I am trained in taking a full consultation, covering your previous history, injury, illness and current presentation of symptoms, to identify if:

a) You may need to seek medical advice from your GP or similar

b) You may need more specialist assessment, from a physiotherapist or other practitioner

And I can support you through this journey and offer signposting to help you get in front of the right professionals. So if you are unsure of where to go, I can help you at this early stage.

2 - In the scenario that you attend an appointment and I assess you and say actually I think there’s more going on here than a muscular issue and offer you a referral, in most situations, I can still provide massage and hands on work, whether it’s directly on the area of concern or a connected area, so you can still enjoy the benefits of massage, whilst being a step forward in your journey. In many situations, massage is a great compliment to other treatment paths, giving you space to focus on yourself and recover, whilst also working into the soft tissue and identifying lifestyle changes that may help ease or manage your symptoms. I am fully committed to my clients and like to provide ongoing support, rather than a fleeting, transactional service.

3 – In many situations, after the initial consultation and discussion with the client, we find that massage is a great fit, and a course of treatments coupled with some lifestyle changes, can make a huge impact on symptoms. The best outcome being when clients come away feeling like we have achieved their outcome (reduced pain, increased movement, relaxation etc), as well as feeling more informed about their body and armed with the knowledge that will help them manage their aches and pains if they return in the future. At this stage, often clients will book in because they just fancy a massage and that’s an ideal position to be in.

If that’s answers your initial questions, feel free to stop here and head over to my contact page if you'd like to find out more about my services.


If you want to know more about the massage industry in the UK, keep on reading!

As a pre-face, I can’t speak on behalf of all massage therapists as there are many types and levels of training and therefore, there is a large variation in capability and expertise. Instead, I share below what I have learnt based on my own experience and understanding having worked in this industry.

As a trained massage therapist, I have a good understanding of what I can do to support my clients and also understand there may come a point, at which it’s important to refer a client on to another professional. I think it’s important that clients can trust their therapists in having their best interests at heart and making decisions based on what will benefit the client at that point in time.

A massage therapist can be trained under many types of massage techniques, to varying levels of expertise and knowledge, from swedish, to tai, hot stone, to scar and fascial work and the popularly coined sports massage, from beginner up to advanced levels of training. So it can be hard to know which type of massage you’re going to like or benefit from (I suggest calling the therapist and asking to find out more as a first step). Interestingly, there is no UK regulatory body for massage, which means we don’t have to prove our knowledge via re-examination or auditing once qualified. This is different to a physiotherapist for example, who is regulated by the HCPC and undergoes regular, clinical assessment to ensure excellence of practice.

This is partly why you can’t access massage via the NHS as it is not regulated tightly across all of the massage disciplines available and there is a huge variation in knowledge, in terms of anatomy and understanding of injury and common health conditions as well as actual hands on skills. Another reason is that massage therapists are not qualified in diagnosis, so I can’t tell you that you have a broken ankle, even if the bone is protruding out of the skin, in order for this to be diagnosed, you would need to see your GP or go to the hospital, as they have access to and are trained in using the specialist equipment such as x-ray machines and have the level of knowledge to probe further and identify the best course of treatment. Physiotherapists are also trained in diagnosis, depending on their specialism.

So in the massage industry, there are at present, self-nominated, privately run, Professional Associations, such as the Sports Massage Association (SMA) and Institute of Sports and Remedial Massage (ISRM), who provide guidance, support and drive professional standards of practice by holding therapists accountable for their continuous professional development. They also share key information and resources that focus on delivering quality massage work. To be a member of the SMA or ISRM, you have to have obtained a minimum level of training through a verified training company as well as complete and submit a number of learning hours a year and pay a membership fee in return for the above support and recognition. Membership also provides a way for the public to identify that you are trained to a higher level, with the required level of competence and you keep up to date with new and developing information to keep your practice and work informed and current. There is a register on their respective websites where you can search for massage therapists that are members of these professional associations.

Okay that’s interesting, so what can a massage therapist do?

I can only speak on behalf of myself, and my current level of training and knowledge. This work is the same as any, the more years you have under your belt, the more you learn and your focus and skillset may adapt as a result of the types of clients you start working with.

As a massage therapist trained to BTEC level 6, I am trained in consulting clients and identifying key areas of their health, lifestyle and history that may be contributing to or causing their aches and pains. So although I can’t diagnose the cause of pain, I can review your symptoms and complete movement assessments to determine if it’s likely related to your muscles and areas of the nervous system we can influence through massage. If your presentation indicates other structures may be involved, such as nerves, bone or another condition that may not be diagnosed, then I would refer you to a physiotherapist, GP or other healthcare professional, for more specialist assessment to ensure you get the required treatment.

As well as the obvious training in hands on massage work, I am also trained in identifying movements that may be aggravating your condition/pain, or, movements that I identify as important to your recovery. I can show you what to do, check you are moving in a safe way and work with you to agree a realistic plan that you think you can stick to, so you see lasting results.

I hope you found this blog informative, as always, people have different preferences in the treatments they want, whether it’s acupuncture, rehab, massage or many other varieties. The purpose of this blog isn’t to assess which type is better or not, the important thing, which whichever type of treatment you seek, is to have an open conversation to make sure you and the therapist are aligned and agree with the approach they can offer you at the start of your treatment.

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