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.
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.
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.