Electric massage tables have come a long way since the first one I bought more than 20 years ago.
It was noisy, clunky and not too aesthetically appealing. But even so, the benefits of being able to adjust the height and position with the touch of a button were well worth it.
When I went to buy a new hydraulic table not too long ago, I was blown away by the selection now available. They come in a huge range of both price and features—you really have to stop and consider everything from width, length and foam thickness, to color, weight capacity, round or square corners and much more.
Here are 10 of the main considerations I had to make when buying my new electric lift table:
1. Height range
One of the first things to decide is the height range you want—that is, the difference between the lowest and the highest setting. I found that a range of about 12 inches was normal, but some tables had a greater or smaller range of movement.
Be sure to think about how low to the ground and how high up you will need the table to go. In my case (I was primarily buying it for my husband, also an LMT), it was more important for the type of work that he does that the table went as low to the floor as possible. It mattered less how high, as long as it had about a 12-inch range. For you, having a table that lifts up to a certain height may be more of a deciding factor, especially if you do a lot of work standing.
2. Motor sound
I have found that “silent” is a subjective term when it comes to a company describing its table’s motor. Trying out a table before making the purchase is certainly ideal, but if you cannot, at least go online and read some reviews. Having said that, our new table is virtually silent, which we love.
Knowing how long it will take to get your table to the position you want it and how smoothly that process happens is important. Again, this may be something you have to do via online reviews. With a good table, you should hardly be able to tell (if at all) when the table is moving. We really like that our table moves very slowly and the control pedals are very precise.
4. Control method
Some tables come with hand controls, some with foot controls and some with the option of both. We didn’t think we would use hand controls, so we chose a table that shipped with one set of foot pedals, but we can add a second set if we like. Our last electric table had two sets of foot pedals, one for each end of the table or each side if you prefer. We miss the second set of foot controls and do plan to buy another.
5. Leg room
A very important consideration for us was the amount of leg and foot room under the table, as my husband does a lot of therapy and energy work from a seated position. Some electric tables have the motor boxed in under the table in a way that reduces legroom and would not work for him. Other tables have legs that cross in a way that could also restrict your choice of positions when working on a client. So choose carefully according to your needs.
6. Flat vs. sections
Some hydraulic lift tables are flat, just like a traditional massage table, where the whole table lifts up in one piece. Other tables have the additional flexibility of moving in sections, allowing you to position the client even more precisely. Our last electric table had three sections that moved independently, but the table we really liked this time around (as it matched all of our other criteria) only came in one piece or with a tilt option. We didn’t know if we would use the tilt feature, but as the difference in price was minimal, we chose the tilt option, which allows us to position the client anywhere from slightly elevated to a fully seated position. I’m so glad we made that choice because we use that feature a lot.
7. Extra features and accessories
Different retailers offer different features and accessories, such as armrests, length extensions and headrests. For example, the headrest we wanted was available from some vendors but not others, as was the ability to add an extra set of foot pedals. So if you would like a feature that your chosen vendor does not include, check with another one, as it may be available elsewhere.
8. Price tag
And then we come to price. Electric lift tables range from around $1,000 to almost $6,000, depending on the features you want—plus the cost of shipping. Electric tables are very heavy and shipping costs can be considerable, so know what you’re paying for before checkout.
I remember finding a table and being ready to buy, as the manufacturer had the best table price. However, the website noted that I would be contacted by a representative after placing my order; said representative would then talk to be about the shipping method and price. Instead of making the purchase and waiting for that call, I decided to call the company first and found out that the shipping cost was very high. I ended up finding our table, albeit at a higher price, on another website, but, since this manufacturer was running a special for free shipping, we ended up saving a couple hundred dollars.
Make sure you shop around—look for specials and always find the shipping costs, as it does add up!
Do not overlook the value of a warranty, even if you don’t usually bother getting one for your regular massage tables. In addition to the frame, the vinyl, and the foam, you also have the motor and controls to consider. A good warranty is worth paying for.
10. Credibility of the company/manufacturer
Last but not least, and I do stress this, if you are buying your table online like we did, make sure you check out the credibility of the company. While you can buy directly from the table manufacturer online, there are some not-so-reputable companies out there with lousy customer service, so please do your homework. If you are not familiar with a company, go to any search engine, put in the name and the word “reviews”—there is a lot of information out there, so it is easy to find out quickly if a company has a good reputation or not.
About the Author
Elizabeth Fletcher Brown, B.A., L.M.T., has been a licensed massage therapist since 1989, and is a certified business coach. She is the founder of the Massage Business Center, (www.MassageBusinessCenter.com) which has been offering free resources to support massage therapists in creating successful businesses since 2003. You can reach her at email@example.com.