, C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P.
Like many massage therapists, you may believe you only need to strengthen the muscles you use most often in your massage work, like your forearm and chest muscles. In fact, for many experienced therapists, the arm and chest muscles are already in good shape and may even be overused because you use them so much to do your work.
The muscles you really need to strengthen are the underused muscles. As a general rule, massage therapists need to stretch and lengthen the chest muscles, which tend to be shortened since you work all day with your arms in front of you. Eventually, your posture can suffer when the shortened muscles pull you into a “caved in” posture, with rounded, internally rotated shoulders and the head jutted forward. Stretching the front of the chest will open up the chest so you can get back into a neutral posture, and also help encourage deeper breathing (it’s difficult to breathe well when your chest is caved in).
At the same time, the muscles of the upper back, like the rhomboids, tend to get stretched out and weak from under use. To restore balance, you’ll need to strengthen those muscles. To prevent injury, it’s important to restore balance and make sure the larger muscles of the back are strong enough to help create and power your strokes, so you don’t overuse the muscles of the upper extremity.
Reproduced with permission from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, Second Edition , C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P., © 2008 Gilded Age Press. For more information, visit www.saveyourhands.com.