As a massage therapist, you're going to meet people from all walks of life. And while many will come to you for simple reasons – pure relaxation or for help with a distinct muscular problem – others will have a more complicated underlying reason for their visit. I experienced this not too long ago when a new client, while filling out her intake forms, told me that she suffers from Candida, a chronic yeast condition within the body, and is simply trying everything she can think of to cure her condition.
Problem #1: We're not doctors.
The first problem I had (and that you will have), is that I am not a doctor. I can ask a little bit about the condition in order to get a basic understanding of what is happening, but I can't make a diagnosis or recommend any particular course of treatment. That said, I am familiar with Candida albicans and the way it impacts the body, so I was in a position to talk about the pros and cons of massage in order to help with the stress relief aspect of her experience.
Problem #2: We can't make recommendations.
Other than things that relate to massage, we as therapists can't really make recommendations in terms of treatments, herbal remedies, or anything related to the medical profession – traditional or alternative. This doesn't mean you can't have a conversation with your client, though. It means you need to be careful about the way you phrase your ideas.
I, for example, had just finished reading some articles about Candida on the website run by Dr. Eric Bakker. He's a naturopathic physician who specializes in the treatment of Candida. I told my client that I had just read some articles on his site and suggested she may want to add it to the list of sites she includes in her research. I told her about some of the things I'd read regarding treatment, testing, and the Candida diet and then I was very specific. I told her that she should check with her doctor to see if any of the things the Doctor mentioned on his site would help her. It's important to make sure your clients know they should check with a doctor or physician before making any changes. This clarifies that you are not making the recommendation for a treatment – merely a suggestion (however strongly you feel about that suggestion).
At the end of the day...
At the end of the day, you're going to find people with all types of conditions coming into you for help. There's always a stress component and, based on the issue, you know that massage can impact the different bodily symptoms. If you're ever unsure, make sure you tell your client you need more information to ensure you don't make her condition worse. Ask for more information, or consider asking to speak to the doctor for some general information. Never jump into a situation blind. Protect yourself at all times, and you'll have a thriving career to talk about for years to come.