You’re working in a career you are passionate about. Stretches for massage therapists will help you stay in it.
You have been educated in the art of massage and the many modalities that complement this field of practice. You are excited to get started and to help as many people as you have the opportunity and privilege to lay your hands on.
Somewhere along the way, in addition to caring for others, you briefly discussed self-care to assist in prolonging your career.
Whether or not you implement self-care will greatly impact how long you can practice massage. If you’re planning on this being what you do over the long haul, self-care is a critical component of success. Stretching will keep you limber, flexible and in your massage therapy career.
I firmly believe that stretching is what is most directly responsible for allowing me to practice for 18-plus years. Without it, I know I wouldn’t still be doing what I love with the health that I enjoy.
Common Problems for Massage Therapists
Think about your posture and position when you are giving massages or are performing other bodywork modalities. Often, we are compromised in our position, meaning we are taking our bodies out of alignment in order to achieve a specific outcome for our clients.
Generally, if we are not mindful of how we deliver sessions, we find ourselves with medial rotation in the shoulders from reaching, tight hip flexors from bending at the waist, postural imbalances from rotating and slumping, and more fatigue in the body than is necessary when doing bodywork.
With some attention to self-care through stretching, you can combat the demands on the body that come as a result of giving massage therapy.
Stretching is the Answer
While there are a wide variety of self-care practices to implement, stretching is one that will reward you 10-fold. A long muscle is a strong muscle and, as such, the more stretching you can incorporate into your daily routine the longer your career will last.
Before clients, between clients and after clients, stretches for massage therapists can help ease the demands that giving massage therapy places on our bodies. The physical demands of this work require a high level of self-care, which stretching becomes an important part of.
Let’s explore some highly beneficial and effective self-care stretches for your everyday life that will help you stay loose and ready for your clients.
Stretch the Wrists
Wrist Extension: Bring the arm and wrist into extension, using the opposite hand to assist in finding the end range of motion. Using gentle pressure, press the fingers of the extended hand into the assisting hand for a count of three.
Stop pressing and take a deep breath in. On the exhale, gently and slowly bring the extended hand further into extension. Repeat a second time on the same hand. Switch hands and repeat.
Wrist Flexion: With the arm extended out, angle the hand so that the palm of the extended arm faces the chest, in flexion. Use the opposite hand to assist in finding the end range of motion in flexion.
With gentle pressure, press the flexed hand into the support hand, in the motion of coming out of the stretch. Hold for a count of three. Stop pressing and take a deep breath in.
On the exhale, gently and slowly bring the flexed hand further into flexion. Repeat again on the same hand. Switch hands and repeat. Note that the angle of the elbow, whether internally or externally rotated, will change the sensation of the stretch. Give both a try to see what works best in your body.
Stretch the Chest
Chest stretch: Standing near a wall, lift the right arm up to a 45-degree angle against the wall. The shoulder should be as close to the wall as possible.
Use the left hand against the wall to help you rotate into the stretch. Using gentle pressure, press the right hand into the wall for a slow five-count. Stop pressing, take a deep breath in and on the exhale use the left hand to help you gently rotate deeper into the range of motion on the right side.
Breathe and relax. Repeat one or two more times on the right arm and then switch to the left arm and repeat the stretch. This stretch can be effectively done against a wall as well.
Stretch the Hips
Hip stretch: This stretch is most effectively done from a lunge position on the floor. With the front leg out at 135 degrees, square the hips by squeezing the thighs together. From this position, you can either bring your forearm to the upright knee, or you can bring both hands to the floor on the inside of the front leg.
Breathe and relax in this initial position. Allow the body to feel the sensations being experienced. Using gentle pressure, pull the back knee forward into the floor for a slow five-count. Stop pulling, take a deep breath in and on the exhale allow the hips to sink closer to the floor.
With every exhale, allow the body to release more of the tension felt in the hip. Repeat this one or two more times. When you think you’re ready to come out, count a slow 10. (We can always stay in the stretch longer than we think we can.)
Take a deep breath in and on the exhale use the front foot to slowly press yourself back out of the stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Stretch for Piriformis
Piriformis stretch: Sit in a chair. Cross one leg over the other knee. With the hands on the shin of that top leg, gently lift your chest and draw yourself forward.
This stretch should be felt deep in the glutes of the top leg. Breathe and relax.
Long Muscles, Long Career
There are many variations on all of these stretches, and certainly there are many others that can help you in your journey. These stretches for massage therapists have been found to be the safest and most effective way to create length in the tissue while helping you stay loose.
Stretching simply must become a part of your routine if you want to maintain health in your body and longevity in your career. Too many therapists’ jobs are cut short due to overuse injuries.
You don’t have to be one of them. With some time dedicated each day to stretching, your career can be as successful and as long as you desire.
About the Author:
Judy Stowers, LMT, CST, is an educator and an expert in exercise, massage, flexibility and stretching. She owns Apex Bodyworx in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stowers is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved continuing education provider.