Massage hammer for Thai Massage story
Here at Thai Healing Massage Academy we have a free educational video series for learning various aspects of Thai Massage called “Tips And Tricks“.
At one time we published a new video in this Thai Massage education series which shows the use of a mechanical massage tool, a ‘massage hammer‘.
When this video was posted on youtube, someone left a comment saying that the use of this tool felt like “cheating” to him, since the client paid for the use of the therapist’s hands.
He said that he would consider using this tool on a client, but he could not charge him for this time.
Let’s analyze what clients are actually paying a massage therapist for.
My personal experience with massage tools
Let me relate the experiences in my own Thai Massage practice to you.
Over time I have had quite a few large, heavy and stiff male clients who needed intense therapeutic work on their backs, glutes and hamstrings.
It didn’t take me long to realize that in order to do effective deep work on them, I was putting a lot of stress on my body. One day I discovered the ‘massage hammer’ tool.
When I introduced this tool to my large clients, they liked it. It puts out heat via an infrared lamp which works very well to loosen up tight muscles, and the vibrations are quite effective.
One of these clients asked me to use the massage hammer during almost every session.
He used to say: “Why don’t you put the heat on this spot”. He felt that this deep infrared heat penetration helped him.
As a therapist, I cannot generate this heat with my hands, but this tool can do that very effectively.
Of course I don’t use this tool for the entire session, just as a supplement for 10 or 15 minutes in a two hour Thai Massage session.
Clients don’t pay for our hands, but for results and a good experience
This made me think about what my Thai Massage clients really want from their massage therapist.
In my experience they don’t pay for my hands. They pay for results. They pay for skills. They pay for a good experience.
It does not matter if these results come in the form of hands, elbows, knees, feet, or a massage hammer.
The only things that matter is if the clients feel better after the session than before, if their issues have been addressed effectively, and if they enjoyed the experience.
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‘Cheating’ or providing additional value
The YouTube commentator who felt that this would be “cheating” only established a limitation in his own mind.
Actually just the opposite is true.
My clients felt that I was the only therapist they knew who provided such an additional service, and who went above and beyond your typical massage to get them the results they wanted and needed.
The idea that this tool should only be used as a freebie after the ‘real’ session masks the fact that I had to purchase it and that I am able to use it quite skillfully.
Using a massage tool is not a ‘lazy way’ of doing massage, but it is an additional skilled method of helping the client most effectively.
Clients do not pay for the use of our hands – they are paying for results. If it is good for them, if it is effective, if it works, then it is appropriate.
I can think of three cases in my massage career where I learned that what clients really want is not necessarily what we as therapists think.
1. The reluctant energy worker
Once I had a client, a woman with serious lower back issues. This area felt stiff, frozen and lifeless. I did my usual Thai Massage therapy, working with my hands, trying to loosen it up.
However I felt that I did not make much progress.
Then I intuitively felt that I should place my hands on her lower back and run energy into it with positive and healing intentions.
I did that for a minute or two, but then I started to feel guilty.
Like my above YouTube commentator, I thought that this woman was paying me to use my hands in typical Thai Massage therapy fashion.
So I stopped doing the energy transmission and kept on pressing and rubbing and rocking.
After the Thai Massage was over she told me that one part of the session was her favorite and had felt better than anything else.
What do you think it was? You guessed it, it was the part where I just placed my hands on her back and ran healing energy into it.
My own mind had prevented me from doing what she had really wanted and needed. Her body was too locked up to respond to physical manipulations, but it responded well to an energetic approach.
I learned from this experience to keep an open mind, trust my intuition and not get locked into a preconceived notion what the client really wants.
2. The princess at the high end destination spa
Once I was working at a very high end and luxurious destination spa. One of the guests was a princess who was a real terror.
She complained about every therapist, she did not like any of the sessions, and all the therapists were trying to avoid working on her.
Finally I was asked to work on her since I had a different skill set.
I tried my usual Thai Massage therapy work, massaging, manipulating, rocking – she did not like it and started to complain.
Then I intuitively felt like changing my method completely. I explained that her issue could not be addressed effectively with massage alone and needed a different approach.
Then I led her through an extended visualization session where she herself got to work on her issues. I have used this method on many clients when it felt appropriate, and in this case it worked beautifully.
She had never experienced the power of her own mind before when directed by a skilled therapist.
In the end she was happy with the session. She had no complaints, and I was glad that I had discovered a way to help her with what she really wanted – not a specific treatment protocol, but results.
3. The Thai Massage client who had been gang raped
Once I had a regular client who had recently gone though the horrific experience of being gang raped. She had lost her trust in people, had nightmares and flash backs.
When I worked on her, she talked almost incessantly throughout the entire session. She told me the entire incident in detail, and her life story on top of it.
It soon became obvious to me that she did not really care as much about the massage. What she really wanted was a person whom she could trust, who would listen to her without judging her, and whom she could tell anything that was on her mind.
I never had to say much besides just acknowledging her and dropping a few positive words here and there.
She was a regular client of mine for a long time, and she kept up this pattern.
Sticking to the rules versus doing what’s needed
I could have insisted on ‘the rules’ and told her that talking this much reduces the benefit of the work.
But the point is that she did not care about the benefits of the massage.
She needed someone to talk to and was grateful and relieved that I facilitated this for her.
I am sure she liked my Thai Massage work as well, but this was clearly not her priority.
She wanted a different result from what she officially paid me for. She needed to release her anxiety, stress and fear by getting it off her chest, by being heard and acknowledged.
Should I have told her to go see a psychologist instead? No, she felt comfortable with me, and she got the result that she wanted.
All I had to do is let go of my preconceived notion of how a ‘real’ massage session should be.
There are many ways to help people. With some flexibility and good intuition we can expand the definition of our massage practice in some cases to accommodate clients who need something ‘out of the box’.
Conclusions from these cases
- We as therapists don’t always know what our clients really want
- Our clients don’t always know what they really need
- It is useful to have some additional skills in addition to a typical Thai Massage education
- We need to keep an open mind and heart to feel what is really needed and best for our clients
- We need to understand that clients don’t pay for our hands or techniques – they pay for results
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The author, Shama Kern, has been specializing in Thai Massage education for two decades. He is the the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.