When massage therapists have bad massages…

This weekend I had a terrible spa experience. Thankfully, my ‘bad massage story’ bank is fairly empty as I’ve been lucky to have great treatments from experienced therapists (including Ebor Sulis’s own Kirsty!) over the years, but sadly this experience definitely fell into the bad category. Here’s why.


Beauty versus massage therapist

Most spas hire ‘all-rounders’ – people who can provide a wide-range of beauty and holistic therapies from nails to facials to massage. The challenge with doing everything is that it can be difficult to get proficient in any one thing, which makes most of what’s provided a little above average.

In this instance, I booked a 25 minute back, neck and shoulder massage. Now, I hate going for a treatment and telling the practitioner I’m also a therapist – normally I keep it quiet – after all I’m there to relax and there’s nothing worse than wondering if the person on the couch is judging your every move. On the consultation form I put shoulder and QL (quadratus lumborum) as areas of known soreness and I also put ‘firm’ down when the form asked what type of pressure I preferred.

The therapist confirmed this back to me before starting. Firm pressure? Yes, good.

What followed was…well a back rub with a LOT of oil. In fact, a large portion of that oil ended up in my hair due to one slightly baffling flicking movement that was the closest to work on my neck that the title of the massage had promised. And I asked twice for a deeper pressure, to which there was no obvious change.

The technique was poor and lacking in understanding of muscle structure and, though it’s been over 10 years since I did my Swedish course, I barely recognised any movements as basics of massage. The idea of a spa is that it’s ultimate self care; luxurious bathrobes, relaxation and rest but in order to deliver that the people providing the treatments need to be well-trained and knowledgeable.

Unfortunately, in this case I felt neither was true.


That’s yer lot

As treatments go, 25 minutes isn’t that long, so when my other half appeared just 15 minutes after he was called in, I was far from impressed. As a rule we aim to have a minimum 50 minute on-couch treatment time out of 60 minute appointments at Ebor Sulis. Sometimes there are exercises or stretches or additional consultations to do which may happen outside of couch-time. But cutting a 25 minute facial treatment down to just 15 minutes (probably less if you count the time it took him to go to the room, lie down and come back), is not acceptable.


When we mentioned this at checkout the staff were nonplussed, saying there was nothing they could do and we’d need to write to the hotel to complain. Given the choice, I’d have preferred to sort it out there and then, but their lack of interest in our issues made me want to just leave an honest, and probably unflattering, review on Trip Advisor.

Needless to say I’m still in need of a bloomin’ good treatment and thankfully, I know just the place with caring, experienced practitioners on the books!



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