On Slanted Table

I don’t often have open disagreements with clients during a massage, but one did surface recently. A client came to me in desperate need of some elbows between his shoulder blades. The intake was nothing more than a quick hello and him pointing to the spot that needed my willing elbows to be placed before I exited the room to allow him to get on the table.

As soon as I came back in the room, he asked me very matter of factly, “Could you please raise the table up a little.” I had to pause for a second to try and make sense of how raising the height of the table would change his comfort level. How was it even noticeable as he lay there?

All I could ask in my momentary confusion was, “What do you mean raise the table?”

“Well, it’s too slanted toward the head and it needs to be leveled,” he responded.

That would make sense, if the table actually had the option to be tilted! But in the ten years of using it, that was never a feature made available to me. “You mean you feel tilted downward towards your head, and you want me to adjust it the other way?” I asked in order to clarify what he was asking.

“Yes,” he said as if it was something he always requested.

“Well, the table doesn’t actually tilt like that. It can only go straight up and down,” I responded thinking that would clear up the matter.

“Okay, but if you could only tilt it just a little, that would be perfect,” he reiterated.

I tried adding hand gestures the second time around thinking the visual element would help. I put my hand out flat and mimicked a tilting motion, “It doesn’t go like this. It only goes up and down.” I raised and lowered my hand as flatly as I possibly could.

His blank look did not reassure me that he was a visual learner either. A light seemed to turn on at that moment, however, and he murmured slowly, “You mean it doesn’t tilt?”

“Exactly, but if you feel that you’re on a slant we can make some adjustments. “No thanks,” he responded.

I was finally able to work on his back and shoulders, finding that spot he had his sights set on. When he turned face up, I said “If it still feels slanted, I can grab some pillows and we can make some adjustments, or you can rotate to have your head on the other side.” He lay face up for a brief moment and said, “I must have been hallucinating because it feels fine now.”

For a moment, it really felt like the first half of the session was going to be consumed by a lengthy discussion on table geometry. Once I was able to decipher his request and then explain the table manufacturers poor vision on the variety of table adjustments made available, I was able to offer up some sort of solution. Amazingly, even after our initial disagreement, he came out and booked himself for that rare next day follow-up appointment!