A 5-foot-tall woman who must have weighed 95
pounds wringing wet performed one of the first professional massages
I received. She had a sign in her waiting room: “Beware of
tiny massage therapist.” When I asked her what her sign meant,
she said, “People underestimate my strength; I’ve got
something to prove!” Her massage was one of the deepest I
have ever received.
It doesn’t matter what size you are; all
that matters are body mechanics and creative tableside aides. Massage
is an athletic profession; so you need to train properly.
Are you tiny? Use a footstool. Get a knee up
on the table. Get up on the table. (Tell the client what you’re
doing and why.) Lowering the massage table is one of the most effective
means for short people to work. It gives you the leverage you need
and allows you to use your entire body’s weight when needed.
Who could ask for a better massage? I taught one student who lowered
her table so much that we teased her about “working on a futon,”
but it worked for her body and her clients thought she was a powerhouse.
No one starts out in massage school as strong
as they will be when they graduate. Everyone asks the first week
if they will be able to handle the 300-pound linebacker who walks
into their practice, or if they will be able to handle five clients,
day after day. As with any athletic event, you can do it if you
train for it. By working hard in massage school and slowly adding
weekly clients while you are training, your strength will improve
and in a few months you will be amazed at your own stamina.
Now, about obesity. If there is one deal-breaker
in massage school, I’d have to say it’s obesity. I’ve
done my best to work with obese students, and it rarely works out.
Why? Because, as I’ve said, massage therapy is an athletic
profession. If you come to it slightly out of shape, well, we can
work with you and get you ready. But if you come to the profession
out of shape and obese, it’s going to be tough on you.
For one thing, with the high ethical standards
we have regarding steering clear of inappropriate client body contact,
it is very difficult for an obese massage therapist not to lay part
of her body on the client while working. Usually, with obese students,
I have to constantly remind them that their bosom or belly is touching
the client. It is embarrassing for the student, the instructor,
the client, and fellow students.
Body mechanics can only do so much when oversized
bosoms, bellies and arms make inappropriate contact with the body
on the table.
If you are obese and seriously thinking of becoming
a massage therapist, I will tell you the program will be tough for
you, if not impossible. Before you start the program, why not use
it as your incentive to get down to a healthier body weight? Then
you can dive right in with strength and confidence.
Versagi, L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., M.L.D./T., is president of the American
Massage Therapy Association’s Michigan chapter, a clinical
supervisor in a hospital oncology-massage program, a lymphedema
specialist, and on the faculty of a massage-therapy program teaching
pathophysiology and massage modalities.