Good massage vs Bad massage session

By Ian Chow, Certified Massage Therapist / Infant Massage Instructor / Oncology Massage Trainer

Length: 3 mins read (677 words)

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Whether you are a first timer going to enjoy a massage session or a season / frequent receiver, I am sure you can tell whether you have been through a good session or a bad one. 

In the first place, the onus of choosing the right massage modality to suit your need will fall onto us. Do I want a treatment massage or I am just aiming at general wellness and relaxation? And then, which modality do I want to choose from? Will it be Swedish, traditional Thai, Balinese, sport injury, Tuina, Ayurvedic, mixed medium or any other? If I mismatch between my own need with what I have chosen, certainly the session won’t live up to my expectation. 

After that, there are always a few factors that influence my judgement. Firstly, the skill of the therapist do play a huge role. Once I have decided on the modality that I want, whether the therapist can live up to the skill is a huge indicator for me. With regards to the therapist, their personality and attitude do play a part. Personally, I prefer less talkative therapist especially while they are massaging my back cos that is when I can fall asleep easily compared to other parts.

However, prior to all that, my five senses will play another major role in effecting my opinion.



From afar, I will already be able to see the store front or the massage place that I am heading to. Look can be deceiving but regardless, this is where my first impression will form before anything else take place.


As I walked into the outlet, establishment or the therapist place of operation (for individual therapist), this is possibly the second trigger for me. A great aroma with the right diffusion of essential oil is definitely welcoming. In fact, it could also evoke certain happy and positive thoughts cos the smell sense is closely linked to memory more than any other senses. There was once where the massage room I went to was smelling of dried urine on the wall (yuck!) but on contrary, I have also experienced therapist who used a different aroma at the waiting area and then another aroma at the treatment area to create different mood (nice!).



At the same time, this is the next sense that will be triggered. The music used could also be the starting point to ease me into the mood especially after a hectic and noisy day. I have been before to an outlet where it is playing upbeat music. After a while, I felt my head was pounding and it is hard for me to relax. I guess if one doesn’t know what type of music to play, just choose anything with nature sound with subtle background music accompaniment. 


This for me is more on the hygiene and cleanliness. The floor that I step on, the room that I will be in and the massage table that I will be laying on. The comfortability, mainly the size and the thickness of the massage table padding do matters to me too. Of course, the therapist hygiene is important – their outlook, the attire, their hand sanitation process especially during this Covid pandemic. Not forgetting, the therapist “touch” (skill and technique) itself in performing the massage. And his/her adaptability to the client’s need.


This is a bonus most of the time, not so much a must for me. But it does add to the entire feel-good experience if one does serve tea or some form of refreshment after the session.  One of my most memorable experience was while I was doing my registration before the session, I was serve a cold refreshing “asam boi” drink and after the session, I was given a choice of green tea or ginger tea; at the same time, was serve a variety of biscuit. 

So there you have it, the things that will affect my opinion of what I think can be a good or bad massage session. Do share if you have other factors that you take into consideration. 

Next: Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts Before A Massage


Published by

Ian Chow 周 奕 延

Your personal massage therapist

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