Thanks but no thanks: what to do when clients ignore your advice or when progress stalls

At some point in your massage career, you (yes, even dedicated fantastic therapists like you!) will hit stumbling blocks with certain clients.

Perhaps it’s a young footballer who ignores your advice and continues to play with an injured hamstring with the hope of making the finals. Or it might be a client with a work-related back injury that shows limited improvement despite several treatments.

So, how do you help them get back on track?

When a client’s condition is not improving, ask them if they are following the at-home treatment you have given them. Are they applying ice? Are they doing the right stretches for the right amount of time? Have they adjusted their working environment (chair, desk, computer) to ensure it is ergonomically correct? Are they refraining from heavy lifting if required?

If the answer is ‘no’, then explain again why you have prescribed these exercises and how they complement hands-on treatment. Take them through the exercises again and check that they know how to do them.

Develop treatment plans that fit within the client’s work and lifestyle parameters to limit reasons (and excuses!) for progress stalling. Work with any limitations they may have, including time, costs and access to equipment, such as a gym.

Still no progress? Perhaps there is something you may have missed. Even the best therapists can’t be perfect all the time! Consider other body areas that may be contributing to the issue. Go through the client’s daily routine with them again to identify potential triggers, such as sitting or standing for long periods, overuse of favored left of right sides, sleep habits, the way they carry their children and even their diets.

We know massage is fabulous, but sometimes we need to call for reinforcements when progress stalls. If relevant, suggest the client sees another health professional, such as a podiatrist or chiropractor. A new angle and a combination of treatments might just be the missing ingredient.

In the case of sports-mad people who continue to train or compete while injured, highlight the potential long-term repercussions (such as not being able to play at all next season) of not allowing for adequate healing or rehabilitation.

Still no luck? Tell the client honestly (and politely) that they may be wasting their time and money if they don’t follow the treatment plan or your advice. Put the choice to continue or not in their hands.

Take heart ­— you’ve tried your best. They may well turn up worse for wear a few months later with a renewed commitment and enthusiasm to treatment!

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