Whenever I see a new client, the first thing they do before their massage is fill out a basic health history form. Most people don't mind, but occasionally I have a client who seems very put out at the idea that I would ask for health information. I have even have clients get upset about the form, telling me that it is none of my business what conditions they have and what medications they are on. I always tell people to never trust a massage therapist who doesn't do a health intake. There is some important information that we need to know in order to best serve you, for your protection, and also at times for our own protection. For this week's blog post, I want to address some of the things that I ask for on a health history form, and explain why I need to know them.
I have had people get upset when I ask them to list their medications, but there is a good reason that we ask for it. Massage works with most systems of your body including your circulatory, respiratory, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, nervous, etc. Medications may affect your body in ways that you aren't aware. Many of them affect your circulation, or your breathing, or your nerves. It is very important to know what kind of medication you are on so that your therapist knows if she need to adapt her technique. A great many medications can either dilate or constrict your veins. If you're on a vasoconstrictor (vein constrictor), your therapist needs to know so that she does not do too much circulatory work and pushing blood through now smaller veins. If you are on a vasodilator (vein dilator), your therapist will know that she shouldn't add heat since heat is also a vasodilator, so added heat can dilate your veins too much.
When it comes to pain meds, your therapist needs to know what you took, how much, and when. Pain medications dull our response to pain. That is their job. That also means that if something is causing injury, you are less likely to feel it, and may not be able to give your therapist proper feedback. It is our job to not cause you injury, and working with people on pain medication makes it harder to tell when injury is happening.
I understand that you may not have your doctor's contact information on you, but it is still important to let your therapist know if you are seeing a doctor or care provider so that she can get an idea of your overall health. Do you see someone for regular check ups? Are you seeing a doctor for a specific condition? It is a good thing for your therapist to know.
Current or Recent Pregnancy, or Trying to Conceive
If you are pregnant, there are certain precautions that your therapist needs to take. You will need to be positioned a bit differently, and there are certain techniques that should be avoided to protect both you and the baby. If you have just had a baby, many of the precautions that we take for pregnancy should still be observed. You are free to lie on your belly or back, but there are certain techniques that should be avoided for your protection while your body is recovering from pregnancy and birth. If you are trying to conceive, it is a good idea to let your therapist know so that they can avoid certain techniques depending on where you are in your cycle. Depending on your therapist's knowledge, he or she may also be able to perform certain techniques which may aid in your ability to conceive.
On my intake forms, I have a picture of a human in anatomical position with both a front and back view. I instruct clients to circle or mark areas where they would like focus. I like having this on my form, and I know other therapists have it as well, because it gives me an idea of exactly where on your body you feel you need work. Three people can come in saying they have low back pain, and each of them may point to a different spot on their body. This also give me a visual which can help me to remember which side of the body certain things are on like when a person circles just the right hip, or just the left ankle.
Reason for Visit and Longterm Goals
It is very important for massage therapists to know why you have chosen to seek out massage, and what you hope to get out of it. This can direct our treatment to best serve your needs and wishes. If I know that your main goal is to increase your range of motion in your shoulder, that is going to have a great effect on the work that I do. I will do work aimed at loosening the soft tissue around your shoulder, and perform techniques to aid in improving your range of motion. If you were seeking massage to deal with hip pain, your massage therapist should know that that is your main concern, and work to find the cause of and treat your hip pain.
It is important to tell your massage therapist about ANY medical conditions or injuries that you have. Even if you don't understand why it is important for her to know if you have irritable bowel syndrome, there is a reason it is on there. If you have IBS, you may not be aware that massage can help, but it absolutely can. If your therapist is aware of the condition, they can employ techniques that can help you to feel better, and avoid any that may exacerbate it. If you have skin sensitivities or have rashes, it is important for your therapist to know what it is and how they can work with it.
I know that some people find intake forms to be a hassle or even impertinent, but if it wasn't important for us to know, we wouldn't ask about it. There is a reason for each and every item on an intake form, and it is worth your time to take 5 minutes to fill it out, and perhaps another 5 or so to discuss it with your therapist. In many cases the information on the intake form can protect you from harm, however unintentional. Also remember that if you ever come across something and want to know why they need to know, ask!
To see copies of all of our intake forms, check out the new Important Forms page on the website!
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.