This paper outlines why it is important for a massage therapist to obtain a complete medical history, and client intake form.
The Importance of a Good Medical History
As a Massage Therapist, it is important to get a complete medical history because you need to treat your patient as a whole, not just focus on one particular ache or pain.
It is possible that the patient’s aches and pains originate from some internal organ or tissue, and may not be just muscular in nature. Massaging in the blind could aggravate or complicate the problem if not noticed right away. The medical history will alert a good therapist to something else that could develop if he notices his therapy is not getting the desired effect.
Complete medical histories also provide pertinent information such as weather or not the patient has any pre-existing conditions that may suggest that massage therapy is not the right treatment for them at this point in time. For example, if the patient has recently recovered from a broken back, manipulation may not be the best thing right away. The medical history will provide details; dates; and the extent of their injuries. Likewise, if there are other injuries, the medical history will allow the therapist to work on only one particular area, and avoid another that may not be ready for massage therapy yet.
If there is any long term goal the patient has in mind, such as straitening out a curved spine, or trying to lengthen a limb, the medical history will give insight into how best to start such a lengthy and challenging task.
In particular, the therapist needs to know if the patient has, or has had osteoporosis or osteopenia. A good bone density measurement is also very helpful if the patient is engaged in strenuous activity.
If the patient has any allergies, or skin sensitivity, the therapist will also need to know if the oils used with be appropriate for the session.
While rare, the occasional therapist may also find himself treating a hypochondriac, who runs from doctor to doctor, and is not being truthful about what is really going on with them. In that case, a good Psychologist would be better suited.
There are over 80 types of specific massages available to date. By understanding what the patient is trying to currently treat, and what he has treated in the past, a good medical history will help isolate the real problem and produce a real solution, and not just another “feel good session.” This is the best way to build and maintain a sound and consistent practice.
A massage that works for a 60 years old man suffering from arthritis, will most likely not be the same treatment for a young athlete who just needs to loosen up before his next game.
A good medical history also makes the therapist intimately aware of the patient’s personal life, and what they have been going through, if anything. Since a good relationship, understanding and respect are major issues in establishing a good practice, the medical history will give the therapist an insight into how to be effective in administering health to his patients.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Massage Therapists. Retrieved October 9, 2008 http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos295.htm. Last modified on December 18, 2007