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  • Writer's pictureGreg Pritchard

How do you know if your sports massage or soft tissue therapist is any good?

When you go to see a GP, you can be pretty sure that they have at least qualified as a General Practitioner. After all, they can't call themselves a GP if they haven't!

Greg Pritchard and Vic Paterson from State 11 Soft Tissue Therapy, Spalding
Greg Pritchard and Vic Paterson from State 11 Soft Tissue Therapy, Spalding

When it comes to sports massage, massage or soft tissue therapy, sadly, the situation is a little different. Anyone can call themselves a massage therapist, whether they've had any training or not. Isn't that a scary thought?

In my own town, I know of at least one therapist who has had no professional training. I imagine the same is true of your town, too.

Now, you may be wondering why this matters. You might be thinking there's not that much to know about how to give a massage (perhaps you give your other half a massage now and again, and you didn't have to do any training!), or maybe you think that if someone doesn't know what they are doing, people won't go to see them, so they'll go out of business anyway. No harm done!

The problem with this type of thinking is that if you are struggling with joint, muscle or nerve pain, there can actually be something seriously wrong. A qualified massage therapist will - depending on their level of training - have at least some knowledge about when to tell you to go and see your GP or see a medical professional with more training. Another problem is that a therapist who has not been professionally trained will not have insurance to treat you. If they do something wrong, and hurt you more, and you end up seriously injured, perhaps losing your income or struggling with long term pain, you have no comeback. You can try to sue them, but they're likely to end up just declaring bankruptcy, leaving you with not recompense.

The safest thing you can do is to go and see a trained therapist. Except this isn't always easy. There's a variety of different qualifications that allow for treating different conditions. Since the massage industry isn't regulated, the quality of the training can be somewhat variable. But at least it's a start.

Here's the qualifications you should be looking for: If you're looking for a nice Swedish massage to help you unwind after a stressful week, or to help you relax, a therapist with a "Level 3" qualification is perfect. They are unlikely to be insured to help you with more complex conditions unless they've undertaken further training.

If you're looking for help with aches and pains that are a little troubling and happened some time ago, or perhaps looking for accelerated recovery after sports, then a "Level 4" qualification is what you're looking for. A Level 4 therapist can do the same work as a Level 3 therapist but should have a greater, more in-depth knowledge of techniques and anatomy.

If you're looking for help with more complex conditions or recent injuries and pain, then you're looking for someone with a "Level 5" therapist. A Level 5 therapist can do the same as a Level 4, but once again will have a more in-depth knowledge of anatomy, skills and techniques. So it's always worth looking at qualifications. And it's always worth asking if your therapist is insured.

You can also look at reviews. Reading what other people have said can be useful and insightful. Although they are not the be all and end all.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is speak to the therapist. Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you feel like they are listening and like they understand you? Here at State 11, we work hard to make all our clients feel comfortable with us, but we appreciate we're not the therapists for everyone, and we're always happy to have a chat either through online messaging or on the phone so that you can find out more about what we do (if there's not enough information online) and take the time for you to decide whether you want to come and see us, without any pressure to block book lots of appointments. You can call us on 07788 287098 or find us on Facebook at 

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