As with any massage client’s body, massage therapists’ bodies contain the results of past injuries and effects of current stressors — and if you trade massage it could help protect you from future injury.

Before Eldon Rowe became a massage therapist five years ago, he had spent many years doing body-demanding work in restaurants, cooking and waiting tables. The years he spent carrying trays full of food and heavy dishes, not to mention the hours upon hours he was on his feet, took a toll on his body.

He thought those food service-related body aches were behind him when he started offering massage after graduating from massage school, but what he found was that the physical work of giving massage caused old injuries and problem spots to resurface.

Luckily for him, another massage therapist helped him. She traded with him so that he got regular massages at least once a month.

“She told me that I needed to get tuned into what is going in my own body just as much as I am doing that for our clients,” he said. “If I continued to ignore it, I would end up burning out from the stress building up in my body.”

Why You Should Trade Massage

Massage therapists preach the benefits of massage to their clients, and recommend consistent, regular appointments to maintain well-being — but, so often, they don’t follow their own advice, said Rowe, who is a regional director of massage therapy for Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.

Reasons they’re not getting regular massage therapy themselves vary, but he often hears massage therapists give excuses along the lines of it’s not as important for them to get it or they’re too busy. Sometimes, they may be afraid to address their own issues, and so just avoid it, he said.

Rowe thinks regular massage is incredibly important for massage therapists for two reasons: ongoing maintenance and self-care and interaction with other massage therapists.

Since his colleague spelled him on the need for regular massage after he started his career, he has made a point of getting it for both body and mind care, he said. Having the personal experience of getting massage not only benefits his body, but gives him the firsthand experiential knowledge that allows him to speak confidently to his clients when he is making recommendations to them about massage work.

The interaction with other massage therapists when you’re on the table getting a massage is also different than just talking with them.

“There are tons of therapists that work alone, [so] being able to interact with professionals in your area is vital,” he said. Trading regular massage therapy from colleagues — whether they’re your coworkers or not — allows you to learn new techniques and approaches as well as being able to exchange professional news, information and know-how, and engage in personal and professional camaraderie so you’re not feeling so isolated.

How to Trade Massage

Some massage therapists may avoid getting regular massages because of the cost involved. Luckily, most massage therapists are willing to and love to trade with other massage therapists, said Brooke Riley, LMT, a licensed massage therapist who is an operations specialist for Massage Heights.

“Asking for trades is very common in our work,” she said. If you know a massage therapist that you’re comfortable with, you could just ask them if he/she does trades, or you could pay for a massage and then, if you like the therapist’s technique, you can ask if they do trades with other therapists, she said.

“Bartering is one of the many perks of being a massage therapist and having a service to offer for trade,” she said. “You can learn something new from another therapist while on the table but do not have to pay the high prices you may not be able to afford.”

Learning from other massage therapists is definitely one of the unique benefits of trading massages with other massage therapists, she and Rowe said. “Learning new techniques or different approaches are half the fun of the trading of massage,” Rowe said.

Don’t take it too hard if a massage therapist doesn’t want to trade, though. There are massage therapists out there who don’t want to do trades. That could be because they prefer to focus on their own self-care, or they may be burned out on giving massages or they just don’t have the time.

Sometimes, said Riley, “I will just go and pay for a massage so I don’t owe a massage to another person because I just need the healing.”

Types of Massage to Trade For

How often and what kind of massage work you should get depends on you and your body.

“Therapists need to protect their posture and balance just as much as their clients,” Rowe said. “Shoulders and hips seem to be a constant trouble spot for most, so I usually suggest massage that will promote better range of movement and consistent performance from both sides of their body, not just their dominate [side].”

He thinks combining deep tissue with stretching, cupping and other techniques work well for most massage therapists. Specific issues, obviously, need an individualized approach.

Just as you recommend to your clients, you should be getting massage at least once a month for optimal care of your body, he said, but, again, just like with your clients, how often you get massages really depends on the level of stress you carry or the volume of work you do, in addition to all the non-massage activities you do such as house cleaning, yard and garden work, running after kids, weight training and sports and fitness programs. Twice a month is what Rowe has found works best for him.

“Ongoing care is vital since it is the sum of the little, daily behaviors and adjustments we can do that will keep us from having larger problems in the future,” he said. “It will definitely pay dividends for years to come when you invest the time into regular massage.”

Stephanie Bouchard

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.