Even the most conscientious massage therapist—mindful of proper posture and use of the body and careful to take breaks or rest between massage sessions—must be constantly vigilant to avoid repetitive strain injury and heal minor injuries before they become major ones.

In addition to enhancing clients’ health and wellness through massage and hydrotherapy, it is vital for the massage therapist to engage in self-care.

When your hands, arms or other parts of your upper body feel tired or achy, a hydrotherapy treatment can be used to relieve pain, warm your tissue to make stretching more effective and stimulate local circulation. Here are some simple examples:

1. Contrast hand baths or forearm baths.

Perform three rounds of immersing your hands in hot water for two minutes, then immersing them in cold water for one minute, for a total of nine minutes. This technique may be performed as many times as needed during the day, especially before or after performing massage.

2. Epsom salts hand bath.

Soak your hands for 10 to 20 minutes in a pan or sink filled with warm water containing 1/2 cup dissolved Epsom salts, while stretching the hand and wrist muscles.

Finish with a brief splash of cold water. Use this technique any time your hands are inflamed or cold, or you wish to warm your muscles before stretching them.

3. Iced compress using gloves.

This technique may be performed as many times as needed during the day, especially before or after performing massage, to relieve tired, aching or inflamed hands.

Soak a pair of thin cotton or wool gloves in water, wring them out and place them in a zip-closure bag in the freezer. They will be very cold and stiff when taken out of the freezer; simply run a little cold water over them and wring them gently, so they are flexible enough to slip on your hands.

4. Ice packs and ice-water baths for inflamed muscles in the hands or arms.

Duration and frequency: 20 minutes. This treatment can be performed as many as three times during a day, especially before or after performing massage. Fill a basin or sink with cold water and ice cubes, or sit with arms on a chair’s armrest with icepacks lying on your arms.

5. Paraffin hand bath followed by a short cold dip of 30 seconds or less.

After the hands have been dipped and covered, wait 10 minutes, then remove paraffin and perform stretching exercises if desired. This treatment may be repeated as often as three times every day.

Adapted with permission from Modern Hydrotherapy for the Massage Therapist (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

About the Author:

Marybetts Sinclair, LMT, has been a massage therapist in Oregon for 44 years. She is the mother of two children and author of Massage for Healthier Children, Pediatric Massage Therapy and Modern Hydrotherapy for the Massage Therapist. She has taught pediatric massage at massage schools in the U.S. and abroad, and has taught massage in special programs for disabled children in the U.S., Mexico and Ecuador.

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