1Massage Store Blog - Archive for the ‘Self-Care for Therapists’ Category

Self-Care Advice for Massage Therapy Students

Head massage

Taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of others.

Massage school is a demanding time in life, especially if you are working while going to school. Don’t let the stress get you down. Use these self-care tips to stay happy and healthy while you’re going to massage school and getting started as a massage therapist.

1. Take care of your body.

Your body is your most important tool as a massage therapist. Learn to listen to your body’s subtle warning signs (aching wrists after a long day of massage, twinges in your thumbs, etc.) and treat minor aches and pains before they turn into career-threatening injuries.

Rest your hands and arms whenever possible, and ice frequently to prevent or reduce inflammation, especially if you are increasing the number of hours you massage per week.

2. Learn proper body mechanics.

Learn how to use your whole body as you massage rather than just your arms and wrists. Proper body mechanics will prolong your career as a massage therapist and greatly reduce your risk for injury. Take the time and effort to learn how to massage correctly in the beginning of your career, and you’ll be grateful for the rest of your career.

3. Adjust the massage table to the right height.

Proper massage table height is important for your body mechanics. Leaning too far down or reaching too high forces you to adapt by changing your posture. For most massage students, the top of the massage table should reach your first set of knuckles when your hand is down by your side. This is a general guideline only; use your best judgment to find the right height for you. Certain types of massage (such as deep tissue) and certain clients with a thicker body structure may require a shorter massage table height.

4. Use massage tools to give your wrists and thumbs a break.

There’s no shame in using massage tools to give your hands a break. A simple thumb saver can allow you to massage longer or apply deeper pressure without risking an injury.

5. Take time for yourself.

Massage therapists can easily fall into the trap of always helping others but never taking time out for themselves. Set aside time each week to do something just for yourself. You can’t give to others what you don’t give to yourself first.

Student Massage Tables

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Massage Therapists: How to Save Your Back

Massage stool

Alternate sitting and standing to ease the strain on your back and legs.

As a massage therapist, your body is your livelihood. Take care of yourself with these therapist self-care tips.

Proper Ergonomics

Consciously assessing your posture and movements isn’t just for massage students. Overuse injuries creep up slowly over time. A little twinge can turn into a sharp pain over the course of a few months.

Be aware of your ergonomics, and make sure you’re not placing extra stress on any part of your body. Keep your body balanced and your core muscles engaged. Bend from the hips, not the waist to keep your back straight and protected.

Table Height

Set the massage table to the right height for your technique and client. For deep tissue massage, you might want to set the height lower. Side-lying clients and heavyset clients may also require a lower table height.

Don’t compromise your body mechanics by keeping the table at a height that’s too high or too low for the client and modality. Take time to adjust the massage table height as needed. For regular clients, you can make a note in their file to set the table to a certain height before their appointment begins.

Self-Care

Give your body adequate rest throughout the week. You won’t be able to help others with their pain if you’re hurting yourself.

Don’t give more massages in a week than your body can handle. If your business is growing, increase your number of weekly massage hours gradually. Hire another therapist or make referrals when necessary.

Seated Work

Alternate sitting and standing to give your feet, back, and legs a break. Use a massage stool for massaging the feet, head, and hands and for reflexology or energy work. A rolling stool lets you adjust the height and move around the table while seated. A folding stool is easy to transport for off-site appointments.

Transporting Your Table

Do you travel with your massage table? A massage table cart can save your back. When you’re visiting clients’ homes or businesses, you never know what the circumstances will be: how far you’ll need to carry the table, whether or not you’ll need to navigate stairs, etc. Take some of the stress off your body and save your energy for massage with a massage table cart.

Massage Poll: How Long Have You Been a Massage Therapist?

Massage Therapist Self-Care: Creating an Ergonomic Treatment Room

Massage treatment room

The size of your treatment room and the height and width of your massage table have an impact on your body mechanics.

Because of the risks of chronic hand, wrist, forearm, and low back injuries that many massage therapists experience, ergonomics is important for saving your hands and saving your practice. Improper body mechanics can result in injuries that can end your career as a massage therapist. With the right ergonomic work area and body mechanics, however, you can look forward to a long and healthy career in massage and bodywork.

Work Area

In a best case scenario, your massage table should have at least 3 feet of open space on all sides. With adequate space on all sides of the table, you will be more likely to use proper body mechanics and natural alignment. The more cramped the room is, the more cramped your movements are likely to be.

Unfortunately, the size of your treatment room may not allow for adequate spacing. To make the most of the space that you have available, try angling the table to give yourself more room at the sides and ends of the massage table.

Massage Table Width

Although you can’t change the width of your current massage table, now is the time to evaluate the width of your table and how it affects your posture. A massage table that is too wide encourages reaching across the client and compromising your body mechanics. Although a wider table may be more comfortable for some of your clients, a narrower table provides better access for you as a therapist. Taller therapists can work on wide or narrow massage tables, while shorter therapists will find it easier to maintain proper body mechanics on a narrow table.

Side arm extenders

Side arm extenders make larger clients feel more secure on the table.

Consider a compromise on your next massage table purchase by choosing a narrower massage table and adding side arm extensions for your larger clients. You may also want to consider a massage table that is wider at the shoulders and feet and narrower at the center. This will give you better access to the hips and lower back while providing adequate support and width for your clients’ shoulder and arms.

Massage Table Height

Do you keep your massage table at the same height for every client and modality? Although changing the table height takes a few minutes between clients, the extra time is worth the effort. Don’t compromise your body mechanics by working on a table that is too tall or too short. If you are working on a “thick” client, lower the table even further than usual. Deep tissue massage is also easier with a lower table height.

Although the rule of thumb is to adjust the table height so that it just brushes your first set of knuckles, don’t be afraid to experiment with other table heights to find the right height for you. Your standard table height may change depending on the client, the type of treatment, and other factors.

How to Use a Massage Tool

Grip the massage tool gently.

Grip the massage tool gently with your
whole hand, not just your fingers.

Using a massage tool can be a great way to save your hands. Used properly, it can enhance your technique and gently loosen stubborn tissue. Here are some tips on getting the most out of a massage tool.

  1. Practice before using a tool on your clients. Practice on yourself and on a friend or therapist who can provide helpful feedback.
  2. Use tools in moderation. They should complement your technique, not take the place of your hands.
  3. When you’re not using a tool, put it down to prevent gripping the tool unconsciously.
  4. Don’t grip the tool harder than necessary, or you risk losing all the benefits of resting your hands.
  5. Keep your hands, wrists, and arms soft and relaxed. Tension in any part of the body can affect the entire body.
  6. Hold the massage tool comfortably with your whole hand, not just your fingertips.
  7. Try several different methods of holding the tool. There is not necessarily one correct way to use a tool.
  8. Be aware of ergonomics and posture as you use the tool. Keep your wrist straight.
  9. Ask for feedback from the client if you are unsure how much pressure you are exerting, particularly for deep tissue and trigger point. If in doubt, use gentler pressure.
  10. Do not force tissue to respond. Be gentle.
  11. Do not use massage tools on clients with fragile skin or on areas of the body where the bones or organs are close to the surface.

When Should I Use a Massage Tool?

Use a thumb helper tool to give your thumb and finger joints a rest.

Use a thumb helper tool to give your thumb and finger joints a rest.

Your fingertips are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, with numerous nerve endings close to the surface. It’s natural that you may want to use that sensitivity to its fullest extent by searching out the intricacies of a tight muscle or applying prolonged pressure to a hypersensitive trigger point.

But the truth is, the thumb and fingers are not only sensitive but they are more susceptible to overuse injuries than, say, the forearm or elbow. The more you rely on your fingers and thumbs to massage, the more likely you are to injure your hands over time.

Preventing Overuse Injury

No therapist can or should discount the importance of feeling the body with your own hands. But might there be a safer way to apply deep pressure without overstressing the thumbs and fingers?

A large number of therapists have found a way to balance the sensitivity of hands-on massage with the hand-saving technique of using massage tools. No massage tool can ever replace direct touch, but it can relieve pressure on the hands, allow you to massage deeper without compromising your body mechanics, and encourage resistant tissues to respond and heal.

Using a Massage Tool for Specific Types of Work

Some types of work are more appropriate for using massage tools than others. For example, if you need to apply sustained pressure to a muscle group or trigger point, use a hand tool or T-bar tool to give your thumb and finger joints a rest. If your technique requires a large amount of thumb and finger work or you are working on an obese client, massage tools also come in handy here. A sudden increase in the usual number of massages you give per week also calls for more massage tool usage to relieve the strain on your hands.

Use your best judgment for when to use a massage tool and when to lay it aside. The key is to use it as a tool and not as a replacement for the sensitivity of hands-on work.

Use a massage tool when your work includes…
  • A disproportionate amount of thumb work
  • Sustained pressure
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Working on obese clients
  • An increase in the usual number of massages per week

How to Use Massage Tools Effectively

Massage tools allow you to accomplish more with less effort.

Massage tools allow you to accomplish more with less effort.

The main benefit of massage tools is that they allow you to save your thumbs, fingers, and wrists from injury and apply deep, localized pressure to the tissue. Used correctly, a massage tool (such as a thumb helper, hand helper, or T-bar tool) will allow you to accomplish more with less effort.

Save Your Hands

Even with the best body mechanics and techniques, full-time massage can be hard on your hands. Massage tools take some of the pressure off of your hands and allow you to keep up with your massage schedule without making you vulnerable to overuse injuries.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Learning to use a massage tool effectively starts with practice. Before using massage tools on your clients, practice on a willing friend or therapist. Ask for feedback, adjust your technique, and then ask for feedback again. It’s also a good idea to ask another therapist to use the massage tool on you so that you know exactly how it feels for your clients. You may not even be able to tell the difference between the massage tool and the therapist’s hands.

Trigger Point Work

If you incorporate any type of trigger point work into your technique, the benefit of massage tools will immediately become transparent. Trigger point tools can reach places that your fingers can’t, and they do so with pinpoint accuracy.

Sensing the Tissue’s Response

Massage tools are not a substitute for human touch but rather an extension of the hand and a stabilizer. The more familiar you become with using a massage tool, the more effectively you will be able to sense the response of the tissue and convey the subtleties of human touch through this extension of your hands.

Using Massage Tools for Deeper Massage

Thumb Helper Massage Tool

Thumb Helper Massage Tool

Do you use massage tools in your therapy practice? Do you feel guilty—like you’re giving your client something less than a “real” massage? You shouldn’t!

Using massage tools is a smart way to save your hands, and the fact is that when you use these tools effectively, your clients won’t even know the difference between the feel of your fingers, your knuckles, and a hand helper or T-bar tool.

Massage tools help you to work more effectively. You can give a deeper tissue massage and apply firmer pressure to trigger points without working your fingers to the bone.

With practice, you will become more sensitive to the tissue’s response, even through the medium of the massage tool. The more skilled you become in using massage tools, the more they will become simply an extension of your own hands.

Your hands are your greatest asset as a massage therapist. If you work them too hard, you may just work yourself out of a job! Reduce the strain on your hands by using your elbows, knuckles, and massage tools for deeper strokes and trigger point work, or even for traditional Swedish massage techniques.

Full-time massage work places strenuous demands on your hands and body. Massage tools are just one way you can keep up with the pace of your work without compromising the health and strength of your body.

Save Your Back with an Adjustable Massage Stool

Pneumatic Rolling Massage Stool

Use a rolling massage stool
to rest your back and legs.

One of the best ways you can take care of yourself as a massage therapist is to invest in an adjustable massage stool. You spend hours on your feet each day, working on your clients. The stress on your body adds up, especially if you follow the same general stance and movements. Too much repetition can lead to injury, if you’re not careful.

A pneumatic massage stool helps cut down on repetitive movement by “mixing things up.” Instead of constantly using the same movements and positioning, you can give your body some variety by sitting down while you massage your client’s hands, feet, and head.

Your body reacts differently when you massage from a sitting position versus a standing position. Sitting allows your back and legs to rest while you continue to massage your clients. You may even find that you experience less soreness and have more energy at the end of a full workday when you use a combination of sitting and standing.

With a quick-adjust lever, you can easily raise or lower the pneumatic stool without breaking the momentum of the massage, and with the rollers on the bottom, you can move around the massage table with ease.

Give your body a break with an adjustable massage stool! Find one here.

Sick Over the Economy: How to Safeguard Your Health on a Tight Budget

Don’t let a struggling economy raise your stress level.

Over 20% of Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills, according to a poll released by Gallup and Healthways in March. With the cost of medical care on the rise and the pinch of today’s economy, preventative and ongoing medical care is becoming more and more difficult to afford. As a result, many Americans are cutting back on trips to the doctor, despite the risk of increased health risks in the long run. The knowledge of this increased risk can increase an individual’s stress level, which in turn can exacerbate or cause physical symptoms.

Relax at home with a variable-speed electronic massager.

Relax at home with a variable-speed electronic massager.

This struggle to cover medical bills and the anxiety over existing or potential health care has led to an increase in stress over the past months as the economy sours. A joint poll by Gallup and Healthways tracks the daily stress level of Americans as related to the economy. According to this cumulative poll, Americans’ stress levels increase as worry over the economy increases.

One way to cope with rising healthcare costs and skyrocketing stress levels is to place a greater emphasis on self-care to prevent health problems before they start and to keep existing health problems in check. Choosing a healthy, balanced lifestyle can reduce your need for medical visits and reduce your stress level.

There are countless options available for self-care at home, including do-it-yourself massage and electronic massagers. You may even find that you enjoy learning new self-care techniques and the freedom that comes from taking charge of your own health. Make self-care a family affair by involving the whole family in learning massage at home or relaxation techniques. Not only will you improve your overall wellness, but your family will get the chance to spend some quality time relaxing together.