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What client health records do I need for Thai massage?

Thai massage practitioners must prepare accurate and complete client health records and other documentation.

Using certain forms and documents in your Thai massage practice reflects professionalism and integrity. Such material also builds trust and boundaries while improving client communication and compliance.

A client health record is any document related to the assessment or treatment of a client. Practitioners must maintain, store, transfer and dispose of these documents in a way that keeps client information confidential and secure.

The Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) requires Thai massage practitioners to keep records of each treatment. Standard practice is for you to have a client fill out an intake form before treatment and then for you to fill out a SOAP note after the treatment. These guidelines are similar to two-year, 2200-hour curriculums and the requirements of regulatory colleges for massage therapy in Canada.

Client Intake Forms

A client intake form is the best way to gather your client’s contact information and learn about their issues, medications, and contraindications. It is also where your client will formally agree to your clinic policies. Your intake form should include the following:

General Information

First and last name
Client contact information and occupation
Emergency contact information
Birthdate
Who referred the client for massage therapy, if applicable
The date on which the health history was taken/updated

Health History

Health history and general state of health
Name of primary health care physician and other health care providers, if applicable
All medications the client is currently taking and for what conditions
Client’s primary reason for the visit and the location and nature of the ailment
Date and nature of previous injuries, accidents, or surgical procedures
Presence of artificial medical or engineered components (e.g. prosthetics, pacemakers, implants, pins, etc.)
Medical contraindication markers, including cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions, family history of cardiovascular, respiratory, and other conditions, infections, head and neck conditions, history of headaches or migraines, vision or hearing loss/loss of sensation, allergies or hypersensitivities, systemic disorders (e.g. diabetes, cancer, or Multiple Sclerosis), arthritis and family history of arthritis, pregnancy or gynecological conditions or any other medical or health conditions experienced by the client

Informed Consent

As a Thai massage practitioner, you must inform the client of the following:

Why their health history is needed before treatment begins
That the client may ask questions about the information that you are requesting and the therapy provided at any time
That client information is confidential and that the client must give you written authorization before you release their data to other caregivers
The benefits of the massage treatment, possible risks of the assessment or treatment given, and precautions
The assessment and treatment procedures, techniques, and remedial exercises that you might use
The body areas that you will massage
That you will use draping to expose only those areas of the body currently being treated in the case of cupping or oil massage
That the client may withdraw consent and stop treatment at any time
The duration and cost of the treatment and any cancellation policies
That massage therapy is not a substitute for medical treatment or prescribed medications
That you recommend the client see their primary health care provider for any medical condition, they may have
That a massage therapist does not diagnose illness or disease and does not prescribe medications

Once you have informed the client of this information, you must obtain written informed consent, signed and dated by the client. A legal guardian must sign and agree on their behalf if the client is under the age of majority or is unfit to give informed consent.

Client intake forms provide you with valuable information to determine the best treatment for your client. Generally, practitioners require clients to complete the massage intake form before their appointment. To ensure that clients fill in the intake form before the treatment date, you can email the clients a link to an online document.

SOAP Notes

Medical documentation now serves multiple needs, and, as a result, medical notes have expanded in length and breadth compared to fifty years ago. Medical notes have evolved into electronic documentation to accommodate these needs. However, an unintended consequence of electronic documentation is the ability to efficiently incorporate large volumes of data.

These data-filled notes risk burdening a busy practitioner if the data is not helpful. As significantly, inaccurate information may harm the client. Making the most clinically relevant data in the medical record easier to find and more immediately available is essential.

A SOAP note is a way for you to document the details of your client assessment, current treatment and ongoing treatment plan in a structured and organized manner. The four parts of a SOAP note are the same as its abbreviation.

  • Subjective – What the client tells you
  • Objective – What you see during the treatment
  • Assessment – What you think is going on
  • Plan – What you will do about it

A SOAP note’s advantage is organizing this information in an easy-to-find format. The more concise yet thorough a SOAP note is, the easier it is for practitioners to follow. The structure of a SOAP note reminds you of specific tasks and provides a framework for evaluating information and a cognitive framework for clinical reasoning. And since many other health professionals utilize SOAP notes, they are an excellent way to communicate with practitioners in other health disciplines.

Subjective

This section refers to information the client verbally expresses before or during treatment. Use this section to record the subjective experiences, personal views or feelings of your client, and be sure to include the following:

Chief Complaint (CC)

i.e. Right shoulder hurts when they raise the arm sideways

What does the client say is the CC? The CC is like the title of an essay and should hint toward the remainder of the note. The CC can be a physical symptom or condition, a previous diagnosis or another short statement that describes why the client is visiting you for a Thai massage. 

Be aware that clients may have multiple CCs and that what they list as their CC may not be the primary CC. Have your clients list their problems and pay attention to discover the most compelling issue. An effective diagnosis will only occur if you can identify the main problem.

History of Present Illness (HPI)

i.e. A 36-year-old male with shoulder pain.

The HPI begins with a simple one-line opening statement, including the client’s age, sex and reason for the visit, and then elaborates on the client’s CC. Focus more on the quality and clarity of your notes and less on excessive detail. An acronym often used to organize the HPI is termed OLDCARTS:

  • Onset: When did the CC begin?
  • Location: Where is the CC located?
  • Duration: For how long has the CC been going on?
  • Characterization: How does the client describe the CC?
  • Alleviating and Aggravating Factors: What makes the CC better and worse?
  • Radiation: Does the CC move or stay in one location?
  • Temporal aspect: Is the CC worse (or better) at a particular time of the day?
  • Severity: Using a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the least, ten being the worst, how does the client rate the CC?

History of Present Illness (HPI)

  • Medical history: Pertinent current or past medical conditions
  • Surgical history: Try to include the year of the surgery and surgeon if possible.
  • Family history: Include pertinent family history. Avoid documenting the medical history of every person in the client’s family.
  • Social History: Use the acronym HEADSS, which stands for Home and Environment; Education, Employment, Eating; Activities; Drugs; Sexuality; and Suicide/Depression.

Review of Systems (ROS)

The ROS is a system-based list of questions that help uncover symptoms the client does not mention. Examples include:

  • General: Weight loss, decreased appetite
  • Gastrointestinal: Abdominal pain, hematochezia
  • Musculoskeletal: Toe pain, reduced range of motion in the right shoulder

Current Medications and Allergies

You may list current medications and allergies under the Subjective or Objective sections. However, it is essential to include the medication name, dose, route, and how often the client takes any medication.

i.e. Motrin 600 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours for five days

Objective

This section consists of observations that you make of the client. A common mistake is not differentiating between symptoms and signs. Symptoms are the client’s subjective description that you record under the subjective heading, and a sign is an objective finding that relates to the symptom reported by the client.

i.e. Acute tenderness at the back of the shoulder joint when pressed. Pain only begins when the arm moves in abduction past the shoulder’s height.

Assessment

In this section, you record your client’s diagnosis based on Subjective and Objective evidence. Elements include the following:

Problem

List the problem list in order of importance. A problem is often known as a diagnosis.

Differential Diagnosis

List the possible diagnoses, from most to least likely, and the thought process behind this list. You should also include any possible diagnoses that may harm the client, even if they are less likely.

i.e. Problem 1, Differential Diagnoses, Discussion, Plan for Problem 1 (described in the plan below). Repeat for additional problems.

Plan

This section details the need for additional treatments and consultation with other health practitioners to address the client’s illnesses. It also addresses any additional steps you plan to take to treat the client. For each problem:

Treatments required
Specialist referral(s) or consults
Client education, counselling

A comprehensive SOAP note must consider and accurately assess all subjective and objective information to create the client-specific assessment and plan.

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