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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Why Do I Have To Do Paperwork Before My Massage?

If you go in for a massage, chances are that you will be asked to provide some personal information before the massage begins, and that is usually done by filling out paperwork. Every massage therapist and company is different, and your overall experience with paperwork will be different, but why do we make you fill out that paperwork in the first place?

We know you come in for a massage to relax and escape from the everyday, and filling out paperwork is not something you do for fun. So why do we make you do it? Well, it is for your good as much as ours.

Every therapist is different and prefers/needs different types of information. I actually have different forms with different information for specific types of massages (prenatal vs. regular, etc), but overall, they serve the same purpose. Personally, in my practice, for a new client, I have two pieces of paper that are handed to the client before a massage. The first page is basic information including medical history such as allergies, surgeries, chronic issues, etc. Why does this matter? The short answer is that we don’t want to make anything worse. We need to know allergies so that we don’t use a lotion or oil with an ingredient that will give you a reaction. If you have had any surgeries or other chronic issues, we want to know so that we don’t pull or stretch or work on anything that had previously been repaired. While some surgeries leave an obvious scar such as a knee replacement, others like plates in your neck may not be as easy to see, so we have to adapt our technique accordingly. My second page of paperwork is given at every visit, even if the client sees me every week/month/etc. This page asks the client to specify what specifically brought them in for massage that day, and what they want me to be focusing on or avoiding, as well as any immediate changes in health.

Now every therapist is different, and some may never give you a shred of paper, but may ask you questions, to which they may go and write the info down themselves. Some therapists may not ask you a single thing about your medical history, but I’ve never known a legit massage therapist who doesn’t at least ask about allergies. Also, you don’t need to worry about what information you put on that paperwork. As health care professionals, massage therapists are bound by the same HIPPA laws as your doctor, so we can not share any information with anyone without written consent from you.

In my own experience, I’ve had a range of emotions from my clients about paperwork when they come in for massage. Some just go through the routine without questioning anything, some outright complain about “having to fill out that thing again”, and some have fun with it - I once had a regular older male client check the box marked “pregnant” and then admitted with a laugh that he just wanted to see if I was actually paying attention to the paperwork.

So as much as all of us hate dealing with paperwork, it can be considered a 'necessary evil'. Records need to be kept because massage does deal with a human being’s health, so to help us provide the best care, we need to keep everything in writing. With the digital age, there are many paperless and digital options coming into common practice, but it will still involve you answering questions in some form. Nevertheless be assured that we hate paperwork as much as you do, and we hate giving it to you as much as you hate filling it out, but overall, it is there for the best.

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