How to Perform a Visual Assessment in Massage Therapy

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  • 0:04 Massage Assessment
  • 0:54 Three Areas of Visual…
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cara Sherman

I have a master's degree in Science. I have taught Anatomy & Physiology, Kinesiology, Medical Ethics, Resume writing, Cultural Diversity, and Medical Terminology.

In this lesson you'll learn how to complete a visual assessment on a client prior to the massage. You'll observe the individual's posture, gait, and skin to determine how that may affect the direction your massage may take.

Massage Assessment

Did you know that you can learn a lot about a person's muscular structure by just looking at them? You can do a quick visual, postural analysis and have a good idea in your mind which muscles will be shortened and therefore tight, as well as which muscles will be lengthened and weak.

The process of assessing the condition of your clients should begin the moment you begin conversation with them. Establish a rapport with your client so they feel comfortable giving you accurate and honest information so you can best decide what type of massage you should deliver. The moment you bring your client back from the waiting room, your assessment should begin.

In massage, an assessment is when the therapist evaluates what he or she is going to be doing during the massage session. The therapist is evaluating the client and looking at what conditions their skin and muscles may be in.

Three Areas of Visual Assessment

Visual assessment can be broken down into three areas.

1. Inspection of the Skin

This can be done once the client is in the massage room and you're doing your intake, and if there are any changes since the last time the client was in for a massage.

The therapist can look at the skin on the arms for skin color, moisture, temperature, texture, and for skin lesions. Gathering this information will assist the therapist in determining if there are any follow-up questions that need to be made.

Here's a practical scenario: Kim is the therapist, and she is looking at her client Joe's arms. She notices they are red, and when she feels them, they feel very warm. Kim learns that Joe has sunburn on his arms, and has already determined that it's a local contraindication for massage. Kim can also follow up with questions regarding any other sunburned areas.

2. Gait Analysis

Gait analysis is an assessment of how a person walks, or their walking pattern.

It only takes a small injury to affect how you walk, resulting in mild pain or weakness in an area. Poor walking is not only inefficient, but it can also cause other parts of your body to develop pain or stiffness. When looking at how someone is walking, consider:

  • Does it appear to be normal to you?
  • Is there any limping?
  • Is there symmetry? In this case, symmetry would mean what's happening on the left side of the body is happening on the right side of the body.
  • Is the person walking in an upright position?
  • When the person is walking, are their arms swinging freely?

Now, here's a practical scenario: Joe is walking down the hallway so you can complete a gait analysis on him. You notice that he is limping and not putting all of his weight on his right leg. You also notice that his right foot is turned out slightly more than his left.

You inquire about the limp in Joe's gait. He tells you that he sprained his ankle last week and the area is still a little tender. Joe continues to explain that his right knee also been hurting. Joe expresses his frustration with this because he knows he did not hurt his knee.

You explain to Joe that oftentimes with babying an area such as an ankle, it throws the rest of the body out of alignment. In this case, it has added additional stress to his left knee.

3. Postural Assessment

When taking time to look at posture, look at the body from each side.

A) Look at the front of someone (anterior). Here are the questions you should consider:

  • Are their shoulders level?
  • Are their elbows level and do both hands fall to the same point on their body?
  • Do their hips appear to be equal, or do they look shifted?
  • Are their knees in the same spot for each side?

B) Look at the side view (lateral). Here are the questions you consider when checking this view:

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