Massage therapy is a vital tool for keeping the body a well-oiled machine. Clients trust you will help provide relief from their pain and discomfort; yet all too often it’s your own body that ends up suffering after you stand and lean for hours on end.
Long hours are a reality in this line of work, so here are a few tips for surviving those physically demanding days.
Practice posture awareness
We’ve all heard the saying that too much of anything is a bad thing. If you’ve opened a newspaper or magazine recently, you’ve likely seen articles about the dangers of sitting for extended periods of time—including increased risk of organ damage, colon cancer, poor circulation and soft bones. (Many of these articles are based on interviews with James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and author of the 2014 book Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.)
Although standing for hours on end might seem like a logical antidote to the problem of sitting too much, it is not the solution. Moderation, in the form of alternating sitting and standing time, is key; but when you must stand for long periods of time at your job, it’s important to practice good body mechanics.
Whether you are treating a client in a massage chair or on a table, remember to position the client so he is comfortable—and so you are also comfortable. When the client is too low and you must bend down to reach him, you put unnecessary strain on your back. Conversely, if a client is positioned too high, your shoulders will naturally rise up as you work, causing increased tension.
To calculate proper table height, position the table at half of your own height. Then adjust from there—moving it slightly down if you have a long torso or slightly up if you have longer legs.
Stretch and lift weights
To keep your body loose on the job, be sure to stretch between clients. One of the most useful stretches that can be completed quickly, right in your session room, is the double arm doorway stretch:
- Stand in a doorway with one foot in front of you and the other behind you so each leg is in a different room.
- Brace your forearms against each side of the door opening. Your arms will look similar to a referee’s field goal signal, but should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Gradually lean forward so you feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder muscles.
Outside of your workplace, exercise is a great way to counter the discomfort that can come along with providing massage therapy. In particular, weight training exercises for the upper back, such as rowing, will train you to pull your shoulder blades down and together. This exercise improves muscle strength in your shoulders so that you can raise your chest. It is difficult to maintain good head posture without the proper strength and support in those muscle groups, so don’t be tempted to skip the weights when you visit the gym.
Make self-care a priority
You likely tell your clients to drink plenty of water after a massage. Create a positive habit of staying hydrated by grabbing a glass of water for yourself after you grab one for a client post-massage. In addition to drinking plenty of water daily, practice a regular, consistent self-care routine that includes healthy eating and exercise to keep your body in tip-top form.
As founder and CEO of BackJoy (backjoy.com), Bing Howenstein’s mission is to fix how the world sits, stands, sleeps and moves. Leveraging what experts know—that better posture prevents back pain and promotes health and well-being—the company creates and distributes products that improve consumers’ posture so they can achieve more from life.