From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Body Mechanics: Working from the Core,” by Joseph Muscolino, in the June 2010 issue. Article summary: As any massage therapist in practice knows, massage—especially deep-tissue massage—can be hard work. It is physically taxing to create and deliver pressure hour after hour into the bodies of your clients. Much of the success you, as a therapist, will enjoy depends on the quality of your body mechanics.
and Richard W. Goggins
Massage therapists are exposed to a number of risk factors in work that can contribute to causing injury. By learning to use good body mechanics, massage therapists can reduce exposure to risk factors like awkward postures and fatigue, and lower injury risk.
Using good body mechanics allows you to distribute stress evenly throughout your body as you work. Otherwise, you may end up concentrating stress in one part of your body, making it more likely to injure the structures in that area. When you practice good body mechanics, you align your body in a posture that places the least amount of stress on your musculoskeletal system. Your movements stay within a comfortable range around this neutral posture. You use your breath to maintain this posture and help you reduce physical and emotional tension that can disrupt your awareness of your posture and movements.
Working in this way, you can use the strength and momentum of your entire body to create movement, rather than using the smaller, more fragile parts of your body that are more easily injured. When your body moves as a unified whole, your movements can be more flowing, relaxed, even and controlled.
Remember, good body mechanics and good ergonomics go hand in hand. If your workspace has not been set up using the principles of ergonomics, it may be difficult or even impossible for you to use good body mechanics as you work.
Using good body mechanics is an important part of any injury prevention strategy; however, it has not been shown to prevent injury by itself. The most effective injury prevention strategy is multifaceted and holistic, and should also include designing an ergonomic workspace, taking care of your general physical and emotional health (including physical conditioning), addressing risk factor exposures outside of work and maintaining awareness of injury risk in your work.
*Portions of this article are reprinted from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, Second Edition. (Gilded Age Press Inc., 2008.)
Lauriann Greene, C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P., are co-authors of Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, Second Edition. Find information about their self-care continuing education courses, as well as consulting and training services for massage therapists, spas and clinics, at www.saveyourhands.com.