The Massage Rooms was launched in London in Summer 2009 with one key principle: To Deliver Real Massages.
Of course other things mattered too. But delivering a high-quality, pure, genuine massages was paramount. Between us, we'd been lucky enough to experience many therapeutic massages, from places near us in London to as far away as Thailand. We'd even been to Sweden to try a Swedish massage.
We'd tried relaxing treatments to help us sleep; deep tissue remedial therapies to relieve aches and pains, spiritual treatments to soothe the mind and even painful therapies promising to fix chronic physical ailments!
And the treatments we enjoyed (or sometimes did not not enjoy) were performed by a wide range of therapists. We tried highly experienced practitioners with 20+ years of practice under their belt to newly qualified therapists who had just started out.
The global massage industry is huge, diverse, unpredictable and largely unregulated. The cost, quality and types of massage treatment varied just as the answers to the most frequently asked questions did.
We decided to try to create something a bit more trustworthy. What we called 'Real Massage'.
The international massage therapy industry is massive and highly fragmented. In 2017, it had a global estimated value of over £20 billion with hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of individuals offering massage services all around the world.
Not only is massage a large global commercial industry, it is also widely practiced between friends and family as a favour and even as a way of life in some cultures!
So, with all that variability, how do you differentiate between good massage and bad massage?
It's not easy but as a curator of home and hotel visiting massage services in London for over 10 years, we like to think have a pretty good idea!
Real massage is a massage that goes beyond simple pampering. It is a massage that you can truly feel and that is effective, both physically and psychologically. When receiving a real massage you will notice that your therapist is sincere and working hard during your treatment. Delivering real massage can be quite exhausting for therapists but it also offers great rewards.
We believe there are 5 fundamental principles that underly real massage.
Academic certificates alone are simply not sufficient. Classroom attendance, theoretical lectures, staged practice sessions and pretty printed certificates can form basic foundations from which a genuinely excellent massage therapist may emerge. Qualifications alone in massage neither guarantee nor indicate an ability to perform excellent massages. The best massage therapists are those who have also been trained and tested to ensure they are reliable, friendly, sensitive and full of empathy for others.
Real massage cannot be effectively delivered if the therapist adopts a recipe-book approach. Dividing the body into a rigid number of segments, applying repeated strokes a set number of times to each body part and progressing the massage without any personalised intuition for that particular moment are all ingredients in a recipe for a terrible massage.
We have met and experienced wonderful treatments from therapists who hold a variety of massage qualifications. We have also endured incredibly poor treatments from certain therapists who displayed several certificates in numerous massage techniques but none of the emotion and interest we believe is critical.
Many beauty training schools offer massage as an add-on module. Whilst this has its purpose and place, as a secondary subject to beauty treatments it cannot be called real massage. Consider eating a meal prepared by someone who learned to cook on a module that formed part of a training course designed to teach how to run restaurants.
There are always exceptions to the norm of course, but we repeatedly see that therapists who have focused on a career in massage alone offer very significantly better treatments than beauticians who offer massage as one of several beauty services.
A genuine desire to massage people better is crucial. Feeling completely at ease – and enthusiastic – to touch and exchange energy with other human beings is key. When receiving a massage, the client may never have met the therapist before, may be from a completely different cultural background and may possess a very dissimilar physical appearance. None of these matter one bit to a great masseuse or masseur.
A career in massage should not be seen as a means to an end (such as paying the monthly bills) but rather a true vocation, a calling in life. Those therapists who live and breathe massage are those that are most likely to offer truly amazing massages.
In treatments, oil is often used to lubricate and to provide pleasant aromas with natural healing properties. Chosen and used appropriately these oils can have an amazing uplifting effect on quality of the overall session. However there is no point in having the perfect massage oils or room setting without true understanding, sympathy and compassion for giving the treatment.
Good parents, boyfriends and girlfriends give wonderful massages. Good nurses make great massage therapists. Genuine empathy enables real massage to be delivered naturally.
When we unexpectedly knock a shoulder or leg against a hard, heavy object, we almost all instinctively reach to massage ourselves better. Massage is intrinsic, an inbuilt human skill that some of us have honed better than others, that some of us are naturally more skilled at.
The secret is not only to identify a masseuse or masseur who is naturally skilled and effectively trained and experienced but also keen to do the same quality of massage on others as they are on themselves.
When this business first launched and feedback started pouring in, we sometimes wondered whether all the feedback was genuine since there was such a high percentage of incredibly glowing remarks. We contacted a random selection of such customers and explored their feedback and reviews in a little more detail. What we learned was that these customers felt that they had experienced true massage for the first time in their lives. Many of them had received multiple massages around the world, most often in hotels or beauty salons. Again and again, customers explained that the reason for the 5-star review was that they had never experienced or even expected massage could be as genuine, caring and involved as they had experienced with therapists from The Massage Rooms.