Massage therapy doesn’t require too much equipment to get started — but there are a few must-haves that should be on your shopping list as you start offering services. Here are the basics, plus a few nice-to-have extras.
Personal Protective Equipment & Sanitizing Products
With coronavirus (COVID-10) a very real threat to health and wellbeing, it’s necessary that all massage therapists wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and upgrade sanitation procedures.
Guidelines from the CDC and other entities state that both therapist and client should wear a mask at all times; many massage therapists also wear a plastic face shield. Some states require massage therapists to change their smock or apron between every session.
Hand sanitizers augment regular hand-washing. Medical-grade air purifiers improve a session room’s air-flow and cleanliness. Sanitizing products for counters, doorknobs, massage tables and other surfaces are also required for every massage practice.
Portable Massage Table
Even if your employer supplies you a massage table in your session room, having a portable one at the ready lets you take on clients outside work and build your own brand. If you plan to take appointments through a mobile massage company, a portable table becomes essential.
As with any major purchase, look for quality first; don’t buy just any table because it’s inexpensive.
A quality table will be sturdy and not feel flimsy in any way; will be quick and easy to set up and fold down; have soft, comfortable upholstery that can wipe clean; and is not too heavy to carry. (Hauling a heavy table out of your car trunk is one thing — but carrying it up a flight or two of stairs is another!)
Stationary Massage Table
If you’re working as a solo practitioner in your own office or dedicated session space, it’s probably time to upgrade from a portable table to a stationary table. You can find very basic models as well as those loaded with options.
One major factor to consider is how you can raise and lower the table — manually or via hydraulic lift. Hydraulic tables adjust much more easily and precisely, but their prices will be significantly higher.
Other considerations are if a table feels sturdy and stable; has a high-quality upholstery that you can easily wipe clean; has an adjustable face cradle for client comfort; and comes backed with some kind of warranty in case of defect or damage.
Massage chairs are useful if you provide corporate massage or mobile massage; want to provide massage at a street fair or sporting event; or simply want to offer your regular clients another option. (For people on their lunch break, a 30-minute, clothed chair massage can be ideal.)
Choose a chair that’s sturdy and high-quality, but not too heavy to carry. It should be simple and quick to set up, and all areas should be adjustable so you can accommodate a variety of clients.
Massage table linens are of crucial importance for client comfort, so don’t be afraid to invest in quality. You’ll need to buy sheet sets that include a fitted and flat sheet, plus a soft blanket to put on top, and a face cradle cover. Many therapists also like to put a fleece pad underneath the fitted sheet for extra softness, and you may choose to add a table warmer so you can accommodate clients who get cold easily.
When shopping for linens, look for those that are soft, comfortable and easily washable. (You’ll be washing them a lot.)
Some massage tables come with bolsters, or they can be purchased as add-ons with upholstery matching the table. You’ll need some basic bolsters designed to be placed under clients’ ankles or knees, plus any specialty ones required — for example, those designed to support pregnant women.
Bolsters should be firm enough to be supportive, soft enough to be comfortable, and covered with a material that is easy to wipe clean.
Lubricants for massage come in many formats: oils, lotions and creams, to name just a few. Typically, oils offer more glide, while lotions and creams provide more friction.
Beyond consistency, look for organic, natural ingredients with as few additives as possible. Water-based lubricants will more easily wash out of your linens.
If you select a lubricant containing nut oils or other potential allergens, you may also want to keep a very basic lubricant on hand for those clients with allergies. (Think about your own allergies and sensitivities also; as the practitioner you will spend many hours in contact with your lubricants.)
These products can enhance a massage or decrease clients’ perception of pain. Topicals that include essential oils can tailor a session to a certain purpose, such as a massage with lavender oil to promote sleep. Heating and cooling topicals generate a feeling of heat or cold to relieve aching muscles. You can also investigate topicals with CBD (cannabidiol), which offer relaxation as well as pain relief.
As with lubricants, look for topicals that use natural and organic ingredients; take care to choose products with the fewest potential allergens; and be sure to check with the client before applying to make sure they are not sensitive to any ingredients or odors.
Tape & Tools
Tools that assist your hands during a massage can help provide extra benefits to your clients while saving wear and tear on your body. Consider hot or cool stones, kinesiology tape, acupressure balls, rollers, bamboo sticks, hot and cold packs, and other specialized tools to change up your routine and better customize the massage you offer.
High-quality business software can automate many tasks, especially if you’re a solo therapist who doesn’t have office help.
Software can handle appointment scheduling, reminders and cancellations; client payments and gift certificates; product inventory; SOAP notes; tracking of business expenses; your email list and other marketing efforts, and more.
Many software programs can be accessed via a mobile app or a website, so you can keep up with business tasks on the go.