Massage therapists should make stretching a part of their daily routine.
Massage therapists are trained in proper body mechanics so they can keep their bodies in tip-top form, avoid injuries and extend their careers.
Another facet of massage therapist self-care component is stretching before and after massaging clients.
“When it comes to the self-care side, warming up and stretching is huge for a massage therapist,” said Brooke Riley, an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.
“When we’re actually doing massage, we can tend to position our bodies to give a good treatment, but we’re hurting ourselves in turn,” she said. Plus, massage therapists do a lot of the same motions over and over through the day which can cause repetitive motion injuries.
Flexibility Prevents Injury
Stretching can work wonders when trying to prevent injury. According to Harvard Medical School, stretching “keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy.” Having flexibility is important not only for muscle movement, says Harvard, but also for range of motion in the joints.
When, how often, and what sorts of stretches they do depend on the individual, said Riley. “The main thing I tell therapists is to try and listen to their body just like they listen to their guest’s body,” she said.
For herself, Riley checks in with her body to figure out what she needs, which can vary not only from day to day, but even from the start of her day to the middle to the end. “If I have an area that needs more attention, I focus my stretching and self-care on that area,” she said.
She likes to start her day before beginning massage work with stretches that warm up her muscles. Between sessions, she will do short, range of motion stretches to make sure she keeps the blood flowing to her muscles.
“I personally love range-of-motion stretching … (because) they help maintain normal joint function by increasing and preserving joint mobility and flexibility,” she said.
Then, after a day’s worth of massage work, she does breathing exercises and slow, elongating stretches to reduce stiffness and increase her flexibility before resting her body with a good night’s sleep.
Unwind with Yoga
After a particularly long day of massage, she really enjoys doing yoga. “(It) really helps me to unwind and let go of any energy I may be holding onto from a client,” she said. “It helps to elongate and slowly release tension, and also reminds me to focus on my breathing.”
“There are a lot of different things you can do in between sessions and at the beginning and the end of your day just to keep yourself going and to keep our body feeling better,” she said. “Self-care is important for us because we don’t take care of ourselves as much as we take care of our guests.”
While it is always best to have a chat with your physician before instituting an exercise or stretching regime to make sure you don’t hurt yourself in your effort to prevent injury in the first place, even a quick search on the internet will provide you with some basic stretches for the most common areas of your body that might need some stretching attention.
Here are a few for you to get started with:
• Stand straight with your feet together and bring your arms in front of you, about chest height. Interlace your fingers with palms facing your chest then turn your clasped hands so they are facing away from you.
• Raise your clasped hands above your head. Don’t let your back bulge backward. Keep your spine straight and don’t let your shoulders rise up to your ears. Keep your shoulders down.
• Hold for as long as you feel your body needs you to hold.
• Sit or stand with your arms stretched out in front of you at shoulder level, palms facing the floor.
• Spread fingers slightly apart. Flip your hands upward so that your fingertips are skyward (if you’re outside) or pointing toward the ceiling.
• Bring hands back to down to the original position and then repeat the up-down motion. Do as many times as you feel your body needs.
• When you’re done with the up-down stretches, keeping your arms stretched out in front of you at shoulder level, form your hands into loose fists then make comfortable circles with your fists to the left however many times you feel your body needs it, and then do the same circling to the right.
• From a seated or standing position with your elbows at waist level and your hands held comfortably in front of you, tuck your thumbs into the palm of each hand (you can stretch both hands at the same time or do one hand at a time) then curl your fingers over your thumbs, giving your thumbs a gentle tug to stretch the thumb.
• Open your fingers, then repeat 5 to 10 times.
• In the same position as above with your elbows at waist level and your hands held in front of you, hold your hand open with fingers slightly apart. Reach your thumb across your palm to the base of your pinkie finger. Do 5 or 10 stretches.
• From a seated or standing position with your elbows at waist level and your hands held comfortably in front of you, open your fingers wide then touch the pad of your thumb to each finger, starting with your pinkie.
• Keep your fingers straight and make sure to bring your thumb back to the starting position before moving to the next finger. Do 2-3 sets.
• From a seated or standing position with your elbows at waist level and your hands held comfortably in front of you (or resting on a table with your hand extended beyond the edge of the table), hold hand straight out with fingers together then fan all the fingers wide at the same time then return to the original position.
• Fan in and out 10 times.
About the Author:
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.