Where is the best place to get a massage? There is certainly a time and place for a specific kind of environment/experience. Thinking about what suits you best and what elements you need to towards your goals will help you make a more informed choice. Below is a list of settings in which you will most likely receive massage. There are more than what I listed, but I picked the Top 5 places where you would likely receive one. It is helpful to understand the pros and cons of each of them before selecting a regular massage spot.

Environments you will likely experience professional massage are:

1. Spas (these come in many shapes and sizes)
2. Medical Offices (clinical setting)
3. Mobile Massage and In-Home Care
4. Kiosks (on the fly)
5. Private Practices (these also come in many varieties)

Here are some reflections and pros and cons of each setting to will help you get started when you find yourself asking “where should I go for a massage?” These descriptions are generalizations. There are always exceptions and unique variations to every setting. The purpose here is to help give you a better picture of what your options are, in order to best suit your needs.

1. Spas

When massage is spoken of as a luxury, spa are likely what people are talking about. Spas have been a part of many cultures since ancient times and they come in many shapes and sizes. If you want a pampering experience, than a spa will likely deliver that for you.

However, if you are in pain and need to be in therapy, a spa may not necessarily suit those needs. Further investigation to the services they offer my be needed. Visits to the spa are usually kept for special occasions, rather than consistent therapeutic care. They oftentimes offer deep tissue or sports massage, however, you may prefer going to an office that specifically addresses injuries when this is the case.

Pros of a Spa:

∙ they offer signature pampering spa treatments like scrubs, wraps, masks, facials, and salon services
∙ you can go as a couple, with a friend, family member, or in small groups
∙ some are able to get you scheduled for services with little to no notice
∙ If they are a chain, they will have more than one location

Cons of a Spa:

∙ many times an hour means 50 minutes
∙ it’s a high end, high priced experience
∙ you are likely to have no developed relationship with the therapist you work with (it’s who’s on duty)
∙ you are likely to be treated more like a customer vs. a client
∙ the expectations placed on a therapist by the spa owner/manager may be a hindrance to building a solid client-therapist relationship
∙ therapists are more prone to burn-out or less attached to the outcome due to unsustainable demands by the spa business owner (who is probably not a therapist themselves and don’t understand what a healthy workload is), compromising the quality of the work
∙ therapists are required to follow spa protocol which may be a routine vs. customized
∙ spa employees are sometimes required to try to sell you products or treatment upgrades as part of their performance review, which can feel uncomfortable if you aren’t interested

2. Medical Office/Clinic

Medical practices that offer massage include chiropractors, physical therapy, and other integrative pain management medical clinics. The convenience of having more than one therapy in one location can be super helpful for your busy schedule.

Pros of a Medical Clinic:

∙ you have access to other types of medical care or diagnostics
∙ therapist oftentimes have advanced training in therapeutic modalities
∙ since you are likely there for a specific concern, they are able to focus their treatments
∙ your treatment is often integrated with other therapies and can be monitored by a team
∙ your therapy may be covered by insurance or workman’s comp

Cons of a Medical Clinic:

∙ your treatments may be assigned to the therapist who is on duty, not the one you choose
∙ the environment is clinical which is not always as conducive for relaxation and can lack the finer touches of a therapy space (sounds, the calm, beauty, color, and aroma)
∙ in the pursuit of achieving results, sometimes client comfort is forfeited (the “no pain, no gain” approach)

3. Mobile Massage and Home-based Practices (In-home)

Some massage therapists are mobile and can travel to the client’s location (home or office) making it super convenient for the client. While other therapists set up their office within their own home.

Pros of Mobile Massage or Home-Based Practice:

∙ in-home, the environment is intimate and personal
∙ if they come to you, you don’t have to travel to and from a location
∙ if you go to them, they oftentimes can charge lower service fees because they have lower overhead
∙ mobile massage is great in certain circumstances, like when you are unable to drive or walk due to injury and surgery.

Cons of Mobile Massage or Home-Based Practice:

∙ in the therapist’s home, being in their personal space may feel less professional
∙ it’s harder managing the elements that influence relaxation in an environment is (i.e. lighting, sounds, room temperature, music, pets, feng shui, etc.)
∙ it may may be more difficult to relax in their own home and
∙ more precautions must be taken, such as knowing and trusting the person you are working with
∙ if they are coming to your home, there is likely a surcharge for travel time/expense, along with the energy it takes to haul their equipment.
∙ with mobile massage, it may be difficult to bring all the tools available in a permanent space (full range of bolsters, heat packs, hot towels, essential oils collection, etc.)

4. Kiosks

Kiosks can be found in airports, malls, natural food stores, and such. They are great for short (10-30 minute) massage sessions.

Pros of Kiosks:

∙ they are a quick fix when on the go
∙ they are a beneficial way to spend time on your lunch break or downtime while traveling
∙ can be a spur of the moment decision – don’t need to book it ahead of time
∙ can hold you over until your next scheduled appointment
∙ it’s a good way to sample different therapist’s touch

Cons of Kiosks:

∙ these are for quick fixes and spot treatments only – great for shoulder work, so much for full body
∙ if the massage is performed in a massage chair, access to certain areas of the body are limited
∙ the environment is usually not the most relaxing (loud, bright, and busy)

5. Private Practices

Private practices are owned and operated by practitioners. They can be found in professional buildings and wellness centers. They typically consist of one practitioner or small collectives.

Pros of Private Practices:
∙ private practicing therapist are small business owners and are personally invested in every aspect of their operation
∙ they are better able to be more attentive to the relationship, therefore the level of personalized care is usually higher
∙ they are more invested in the therapeutic relationship, getting to know their client’s case, rather than it is just the next person’s back down the factory line
∙ they have more flexibility in their time, allowing them to ask questions, listen to the goals of the client, and formulate customized treatment plans
∙ if you see them regularly, they get to know you and your body, so you don’t have to explain your history every time, and only need to update them briefly
∙ your therapist’s familiarity with your situation allows them to determine what treatments will be the most effective, they can track your progress, and build on that progress
. their environment is more professional than a home is and less clinical than a medical office
. their space is designed with massage in mind – conducive for healing. the therapists are less likely to experience the effects of burnout because they manage better hours, so you experience more consistently higher quality care (unless they work another job – see cons)
. depending on your health-care situation, you can sometimes use your health savings plan, insurance, or workman’s comp, to cover your therapy.
∙ typically PP therapist have more experience in the field and/or advanced training, because they are in it for the long haul. They live and breathe bodywork and its many facets

Cons of Private Practices:

. some therapists run their business as a side job, working somewhere else, too, as opposed to running a full-time practice. Which may scatter their focus or spread them thinly (this is definitely something to be aware of)
. if they have an established practice, availability may be more limited
. some private practicing therapists have a developed business sense and entrepreneurial spirit, while others are more on the informal side. If the latter is true, the level of professionalism and the inefficiencies can make your transactions bumpy, affecting the ease of your experience as the client. It can affect everything from scheduling to the intake process, the way their space makes you feel (the organization and cleanliness of their space/equipment). It affects the well-being of the therapist, the space they hold, and the quality of your experience.

Before you start googling “massage therapists”, or schedule with someone, ask yourself what would be the most ideal place for you to get a massage for this instance and in the long-run? Knowing what kind of massage spot to even look for to start can cut down your search time immensely. In Part 2, I list what to look for and what to ask when interviewing potential therapists.

How does one go about benefiting from bodywork’s application? If you’re curious and want to explore this topic, read some of our other blogs: