Effectively using our bodies while in massage practice is crucial for career sustainability. Too many massage therapists have their careers end due to injury that could have been avoided with proper body mechanics. For example, practicing proper body mechanics will allow the practitioner to apply deeper pressure application more effectively.
This will satisfy customer requests for “deep tissue” sessions. With proper body mechanics, you will be able to work in any setting in the massage therapy field and enjoy longer career longevity doing the work you love. This article offers seven pro tips to keep your body mechanics pristine.
1. Set Your Feet
Setting your feet firmly with heels and toes upon the ground will provide a solid foundation. Once feet are set firmly, the rest of the body can stand and move with strength and integrity. Shaky feet as one massages creates instability within the hips and spine, making the muscles of those regions work harder and contributing to the back pain many therapists complain about after a day’s work.
2. Your Hips are Headlights
Imagine your hips as a front of a vehicle with two headlights affixed to your hip bones (anterior superior iliac spine landmarks). These hip headlights should face in the direction of your upper limbs as massage is applied. This ensures spinal integrity as well as easier distribution of force through the upper limbs into the hands.
3. Bend Your Knees & Lean In
Bending your knees as you perform massage strokes can help ensure you keep your back in alignment and take pressure off your sacroiliac joint. There is no need to bend too deeply to strain your knees. Simply bend enough to ensure you can utilize your legs in aiding proper pressure application.
4. Keep Your Spine Long
Imagine a hook atop your body pulling your head into straight alignment. This will prevent you from flexing your head too far forward. A straight spine allows you to utilize body weight more effectively. When your head is aligned, the rest of your body will fall into better alignment, allowing you to apply deeper-pressure force safely and to not strain your joints.
5. Straighten Your Wrists
Keeping your wrists straight will prevent injury to these bones when applying massage. The eight carpal bones are designed to transfer force to and from the arms. With proper carpal bone alignment, this transfer is easy. Without alignment, one side of the carpal region will take on more force over time, which will lend to subluxations and damage to the carpal bones.
6. Use Tools
A. Use your own advanced massage tools. Initial massage courses in entry-level schools present a distinction between basic manual massage tools and advanced manual massage tools. Non-specific massage strokes with little pressure application can be accomplished with basic manual massage tools. These include palms, forearms, dorsal hand and finger-pads. Massage strokes requiring greater precision and pressure application will require advanced manual massage tools. These tools include your elbows, knuckles, soft fists, thumbs and fingertips.
B. Use device tools to augment pressure. If you feel a client’s tissue is too difficult to work through, consider using device tools to augment pressure application. Some examples: Cupping can create negative pressure force to lift tissue layers apart. Scraping tools can reduce myofascial adhesions and soften stiff tissues. Foam rolling can create a positive pressure force akin to a forearm to initiate tissue release.
7. Consider Broad vs. Specific Pressure
Broad pressure can be created by such manual tools as soft fists and forearms. These tools can diffuse physical force over a wider surface. This type of touch can be better received by many clients, especially those with chronic pain or sensitivity to touch. Specific pressure can be created by manual tools such as fingertips, knuckles and elbows.
The pointed nature of these tools allows for a concentration of pressure in one point location. Trigger-point therapy and other deep tissue teachers often present holding specific pressure for a certain time length to address a singular point within a muscle.
About the Author
Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education in Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved provider of continuing education, and teaches classes on pathology and many other topics.