Relaxation massage pictured in a side-view of woman lying with closed eyes and having face or head massaged over green natural background

Fluff-and-buff. Spa massage. Relaxation only. Throughout the years, basic Swedish technique — relaxation massage — has gotten a bad rap.

This bad reputation has been generated by both therapists and the public who see relaxation massage as something simply not as good as, or as important as, more robust therapies. like myofascial release, deep-tissue and sports massage.

Yet, science is increasingly indicating that it’s the stress-relieving aspects of receiving massage — lying down, resting, being paid attention to, and being nurtured by skilled, trained hands — that alleviates pain in the body.

You can harness this new information while helping clients navigate the ever-widening ocean of bodywork therapies. [Read “Pain and Emotions: The Primitive Brain at Work.”]

Are You Pushing Clients Away?

As medically based continuing education opportunities continue to increase, our arsenal of powerful massage techniques grows. We are better prepared than ever before to produce a broad spectrum of highly skilled, clinical-level results for our clients, thrusting medical massage to the top in terms of approach to care.

The marketing of clinically focused massage and bodywork services has become inundated with technical jargon and names of modalities as we strive to be seen as knowledgeable health care practitioners who can “fix” nearly every ache, pain and dysfunction our clients present with.

But while our intentions of educating the public may be great, our words could be pushing more and more potential clients away.

When we use words that are foreign or unclear to our clients, such as proprieceptive neuromuscular facilitation, dermoneuromodulation, manual lymphatic drainage and myofascial release, this can cause confusion and overwhelm, ultimately turning those clients off of massage therapy in general.

Moreover, when our clients don’t understand what is being said or what modalities they’re supposed to choose from, how can they provide informed consent? Using language that is easy for clients to understand helps us build rapport and trust — and protects both therapist and client.

Emphasize Relaxation

With an increasing number of massage therapists turning their focus to this clinically based, fix-it approach, an important element of massage and bodywork is slipping onto the back burner. Massage modalities that are primarily focused on relaxation benefits are getting pushed to the bottom of the list. Worse yet, therapists specializing in these modalities are being regarded as lower-class, lacking in knowledge and inexperienced.

The massage industry is more divided than ever: On social media, some clinically focused therapists exhibit an attitude of superiority, while some relaxation-focused therapists feel bullied and put down. Of course, that doesn’t include all massage therapists — but we can’t pretend that it isn’t a real problem in our industry.

However, the benefits of relaxation massage modalities are powerful and plentiful. Because stress is at an all-time high and causes a plethora of health-related problems in the U.S., marketing massage to emphasize the benefits of relaxation and stress relief can be easy and effective.

Focusing on client experiences, the impact of stress on the body and mind, and the positive outcomes that can be expected will make it clear to clients that relaxation-based massage can be equally as transformative as more “clinical” (or clinically named) massage.

Help Clients Understand Relaxation Massage

You should begin your marketing efforts by creating a list of words and phrases that potential clients will understand. In this article, you will learn how to implement these words and phrases successfully. Here are a few to get you started:

• stress response

• anxiety

• feeling overwhelmed

• mental break

• mental health

• soothing

• relaxing

• comforting

• nurturing

Focus on the client’s experience. Use descriptive words and phrases that will not only draw their attention but will take them on a journey from their current state of stress to their ultimate goal of relaxation.

Describe the sounds, smells, temperature and how the linens feel. Describe the sounds and smells of the massage experience, the temperature of the room and the table, and the texture of the linens. Be specific and speak about how they should feel: comforted, nurtured, cared for and pampered.

Providing a mental journey helps potential clients create realistic expectations and induces a sense of need — versus a selfish sense of wanting or indulging — for the services you are providing, as well as an urgency to schedule a session as soon as possible.

Give Clients a Solution with Relaxation Massage

As with clinically focused massage, it is important to identify the potential client’s problem and then present them with a viable solution. Clearly communicate how acute and chronic stress affect a person’s body perception, aches and pains, productivity, quality of personal and professional life, self-awareness and mental health.

Then, you’ll want to describe how relaxation massage can assist in alleviating those problems to allow them to live their best life.

Teaching people that relaxation massage is a profound and effective self-care tool to manage health and well-being — and presenting it as a viable option that is on par with bodywork techniques that might be more specific in nature — creates a win-win-win scenario.

Clients win because they are able to experience the transformative results that relaxation massage offers. You win from an increase in session requests, which grows your business. The industry wins as massage therapy becomes more visible and accessible for a wider audience.

The final step in successfully selling your relaxation-focused sessions is to highlight the positive outcomes — results — that your clients have experienced. It is best to use specific examples from your own practice because you understand firsthand what those results are and how you achieved them.

Using this strategy will help you build a solid foundation of authority that helps you stand out from the crowd by letting your own skillset and practice shine through.

Take another look at the words and phrases listed above. How can you transform these into the results your clients have experienced? Were you able to help your client feel less anxious or have fewer anxiety attacks after a series of sessions? Did the client feel nurtured and soothed, thereby enabling her to better manage her stress? Were the client’s results significant enough that they positively impacted their physical health?

By matching specific results to the list of words and phrases you have created, potential clients are able to identify with the benefits of relaxation massage and how it can positively impact their daily life.

Rethink Benefits of Relaxation Massage

By effectively setting and managing client expectations, identifying the problem (such as the impact of stress on our body and mind), and offering a solution (such as the benefits and comprehensive results of relaxation massage), we can start to move away from the outdated reputation of relaxation massage as below, or less than, other modalities, and start to present all massage modalities as therapeutic in nature.

I challenge you to rethink how the benefits of relaxation can enhance the clinical-level results your clients are seeking and to create a marketing strategy that adequately communicates those results in easy-to-understand language.

About the Author

Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, has practiced massage therapy since 1996. She holds active licenses in Washington and Texas, and is also a Texas Massage Therapy Instructor. She is a Nationally Approved Continuing Education Provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. Her CE classes are offered through her seminar business, Inspired Therapist Seminars. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “6 Keys to Professional Presentation for Massage Therapists” and her Salute to Service program was profiled as well.