You may have seen the headlines floating around recently about sexual assault allegations from a nationwide massage chain. I won't go into any of those details but you can find them here. I struggled with the idea of sharing bad news when it relates to my industry, because I want to separate myself as far from that kind of negativity as possible.
However, as one of my friends shared with me the horrific experience she had years ago I came to the realization that people NEED to know what is OK and what is NOT OK when it comes to massage therapy.
I want to make sure that every person knows what they should expect from their licensed professional massage therapist.
First of all, if at any time a professional (be it massage therapist, personal trainer, doctor, etc) makes you feel uncomfortable or "creeped out" please please SPEAK UP. You are always the owner of your body, and no one else has the right or privilege to disrespect your boundaries regardless of their title.
Secondly, your massage therapist should always listen to you and work with integrity. For example, if you come in asking for a relaxing back massage, that is what you should get (as long as you have no contraindications.) This means they shouldn't hurt you, or push too hard, or massage your legs for 20 minutes without your consent.
With that said, I realize some people especially if you are new to massage, may not be aware of the ethics and laws massage therapists are to abide by so I have compiled a brief list of some of the highlights of massage laws:
It is illegal in most states for breasts or genitals to be exposed or massaged! Draping with a sheet or towel is always required
Your massage therapist should always respect your right to treatment with informed and voluntary consent
Your therapist should always strive to respect your personal boundaries in regards to privacy and exposure
Areas such as "side boob" or the "inner thigh" are not a normal area to be massaged except in very rare cases for a specific injury, scar tissue, or pain pattern is present and still both the therapist and the client would need to be in agreement
Massage therapists should have their license # available for you and all states have a system where you can verify that they are indeed licensed and in good standing. The KY Board of Massage Therapy's online lookup tool is here.
Your massage therapist should never comment on your body as a sexual object. For example, they should not ever "hit on you", or tell you that you have a nice body, nice butt, etc.
Report any and ALL unprofessional behavior, sexual misconduct, or unlicensed activity to their manager and the state Board of Massage.
Please remember that the majority of licensed massage therapists are inherently good people that want to help others live healthier lives. Most of us are appalled at the idea that someone in our role would take advantage of the vulnerable state that our clients come to us in.
There are ways to screen potential massage therapists or spas in your area to increase your chances of getting an awesome massage.
My 5 tips for finding a legit massage:
Ask your friends, family or social networks for recommendations. Or ask your chiropractor, acupuncturist, personal trainer, doctor or physical therapist for a referral to a good therapist.
Compare them by looking at their websites, reading reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, and even calling and speaking to them on the phone to get a feel for their professionalism.
Ask for their license number. Verify that they are in good standing with the state massage board.
Seek out independent therapists, rather than busy spa's or massage chains.
I'm not saying you won't find a good massage there. But, typically chain spa's tend to under-pay and over-work their staff. Many of those workers are doing 5-8 massages a day, with no rest in between and usually only 5-10 minutes between massages. An independent therapist will most likely only see 2-5 clients a day and gives themselves time to rest and refresh between sessions.
Look for QUALITY over price! The old adage is true, you get what you pay for when it comes to massage!
I sincerely hope that this information helps clear up the standards that you should expect from your next massage. Safety should always be a priority and a licensed massage professional should make you feel absolutely safe and better than before you came in!