E-mails and Ergonomics: How Your Massage Practice Can Help, MASSAGE MagazineThere are 2.8 million e-mails sent all over the world every second, and an estimated 280 billion e-mails are sent and received daily, with an estimated 70 to 80 percent of those being spam. What does that have to do with massage therapy and your clients? Probably nothing—or maybe everything, depending on your work and your interaction with your clients.

Why are we talking about e-mails? They are sent from computers by people sitting at desks and workstations—or worse, from laptops—where these employees work an average of eight hours a day at workstations that don’t fit, are obsolete or even harmful because they are not ergonomically friendly.

In this difficult economy, massage therapists may find themselves seeking new sources and streams of revenue to bolster their practice. With the massage therapist already limited by how many massages she can physically perform, oftentimes other ways to increase one’s bottom line need to be utilized. For many, that includes the sale of products, but therapists can also think outside of the and utilizes the skills and knowledge learned in massage school—the knowledge of muscle anatomy to help clients through improved office ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment to best fit the human body. Office ergonomics is one way massage therapists can help their practice, by understanding what problems occur in their clients based on their workstation setup and by helping their clients prevent further issues. As “muscle mechanics,” massage therapists can put their knowledge of muscle anatomy and physiology to use, assisting clients with setting up their work environment in a more ergonomically comfortable way to reduce muscle injury. Positive results for your clients will not only benefit them, but their employer as well.

There are several daunting statistics collated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety organizations, and among the most striking are that office workers spend as much as 95 percent of their work time in front of a computer. Take out lunch and breaks, and that can be as much as six-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s an astounding amount of time at one task.

Think about all the things that can be ergonomically unfriendly for that person in terms of one’s office setup. Any or all of these things can be incorrect in a workstation setup:

  • Chair
  • Arm rests
  • Keyboard
  • Desk height
  • Monitor height and distance
  • Mouse position
  • Lighting
  • Temperature

Depending on the problems these workstation issues above present, any number of issues and conditions can result. Therapists can set a goal of treating muscle problems and provide a better ergonomic solution at the same time.

With regard to office furniture, one size doesn’t fit all. By learning how to help clients set their workspace up in a more ergonomically friendly manner, massage therapists can help their clients stay in good health and gain revenue through their efforts. In addition, by knowing the muscles involved with their clients’ poor ergonomics, therapists can become more accurate in assessing problem areas and address them with an understanding as to why these muscles have issues. In essence, this allows therapists to work smarter, not harder.

How can you learn about the basics of office ergonomics? Schools like Cornell University offer courses on it, and there is a niche market that caters to businesses about ergonomics, often hosting or sending trainers to teach about basic ergonomics. Keep in mind massage therapists should already possess the most important knowledge to be successful in ergonomics: knowledge of muscle anatomy, what happens to tight muscles and the concept of muscle memory. Muscles that have been used to the same thing every day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year do remember what they are used to, and massage can assist in bringing that muscle back to a normal, neutral posture. Research, education and gaining credentials can assist in getting a foot in the door at businesses.

So the question is how do you get involved with these potential new clients and their offices? Know the players in the game. Large corporations may have a human resources department that incorporates ergonomics; some may have managers who are responsible. For smaller businesses, it may be the owner, general manager or manager who tries to do the best they can on the issue of ergonomics. If you have a large corporation or business nearby, check out their website or ask their telephone gatekeeper who is in charge of ergonomics. Start calling, e-mailing and mailing proposals on how you can help them help themselves.

What can you do as a massage therapist to get them to buy in? Appeal to their bottom line. Talk to them about saving money with preventive measures, instead of spending money after injuries occur. Hit them at their bottom line. Here are some facts, courtesy OSHA:

• More than 600,000 workplace injuries take place that cause people to miss time from work each year.

• Workplace musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) account for 34 percent of workplace injuries causing missed time.

• An ergonomic work environment can raise productivity, on average, by 11 percent.

• Ergonomic-related injuries account for $20 billion in worker’s compensation costs each year.

• For each workplace musculoskeletal disorder prevented, companies, on average, save $22,500.

• $150 is the average annual cost to an employer for altering a workstation.

How can the cost to alter a workstation to be more ergonomically friendly be so low? Often it won’t require the purchase of new furniture or equipment; instead the solutions can be as simple as raising or lowering chair heights, moving the monitor to the best location, rearranging the existing workstation to better fit the client. Is the chair too low or high? Change the height. Is the monitor too close or far away? Too high or too low? Move it to fit the client better. Is there too much or not enough light? Work on shading or rearranging lights to fit the client comfortably. Is there cold air or too warm of a temperature in the workspace? Talk with maintenance to alleviate those issues. And don’t forget to take into account any issue the client may have as you assist her in the rearrangement of her workstation, such as if she wears glasses or has posture or orthopedic issues.

Think outside the box, get educated and help those office workers help themselves.

William Fee, MASSAGE MagazineWilliam Fee is a lifelong professional educator with bachelor’s degrees from Monmouth University in elementary education and history, and holds teaching certificates for kindergarten through eighth grade and social studies in the state of New Jersey. A 1995 graduate of the Somerset School of Massage Therapy, Fee also worked in the massage field and in massage education with the Somerset School of Massage Therapy from 1999 to 2006, where he was the former director of admission at the school. He is currently the founder of an education and training company, All Star Education and Training, which has created an online professional learning community for the learning of anatomy and physiology at www.betterpostureschool.com.