Massage therapists know hands are their most important asset. Education, intuition, and experience are nothing without the tools to carry out the massage session. Protecting and caring for these important tools is never more important than when they start to hurt. Here are some self-care ideas for the massage therapist's hands that therapists can do between clients or at home to prevent and care for hand pain.
This rapid shaking of the hands rejuvenates tiered hands and only takes 20-30 seconds. Holding the hands out in front of you, elbows bent, shake hands back and forth with loose wrists very quickly. Watch a video here.
Ice cubes in a bag or water frozen in a paper cup are all you need for a quick ice massage on your hands and forearms. The two best places to concentrate the ice massage as self-care are at the thenar eminence and at the elbow's tendons, where tendonitis begins. The inner and outer sides of the elbow should be focused on when you're feeling aches in that area.
In contrast to ice massage, paraffin is another self-care alternative for massage therapists' hands. If you happen to have access to hot paraffin wax at work, you could do this between clients. If not, therapists can find small, personal paraffin baths for little cost, or you can have the treatment done at a nail salon.
The warm wax not only moisturizes hands but relieves aches in knuckles and fatigued hands.
Soaking your hands in a warm Epsom salt bath is an easy self-care idea for massage therapists' hands. A bag of Epsom salt will last for weeks, and it helps achy hands feel refreshed. Fill a large bowl with warm water, 1/2-3/4 cup of Epsom salt, and soak both hands for 15-20 minutes.
You know how to do this for clients, so take 10 minutes to give yourself a hand massage. An even better idea is to take 10 minutes per hand. Follow good body mechanics and massage with detail through the muscles of the palm, fingers, tendons on the tops of the hands, and joints.
This is a self-care tip to practice during your workday. Get in the habit of checking-in with yourself and noticing when you are massaging with tension in your hands. Release the tension or change your tool to a forearm or elbow to give the hands a break.
Think of your hands as soft and receptive tools, never rigid or straining while you work. Soft hands, as in tension-free, still allows for a strong tool when used correctly. Maintaining tension-free hands throughout a day of massage goes a long way in preventing many massage-related injuries.
Borrow this massage therapist self-care technique for overused hands. Have you ever used fingertips to explore the tendons along the top of the hand? Try this on your hands. Using the first finger, palpate between all metacarpal bones. You will most likely find sensitive points along the fingers you use most. Push against the sides of each metacarpal with light pressure and hold the tender spots.
The most common areas for tender spots are the web of the thumb and between the metacarpals of the pointer and middle finger.
This is an effective self-care technique for massage therapists. You may already know the tension of wrists and hands also affects the forearms and tendons of the elbow. Massage therapists are notorious for having tight forearm flexors. Just as you would care for a client who works typing on a computer all day, your own forearms need regular care.
Place a forearm, palm up on a hard surface about waist height. Flex the wrist, apply compression with your other forearm just below the elbow joint, then move the flexed wrist into extension as far as you can.
Release the compression and move distally about an inch to compress again. Flex the wrist, apply compression and hold while extending the wrist. Release.
Repeat one inch distally. Flex, compress, extend, release.
Keep repeating until you reach the wrist and then do the other forearm.
This self-care technique for massage therapists may become a favorite of yours after trying it. Keep a tennis ball nearby in your massage room or at home to roll along your forearms. This works best with the forearm resting on a hard surface. With palm up, roll the ball deeply along the flexors of the forearm. Then move to a palm down position, and roll the extensors of the forearm. Stopping where you feel sore spots and rolling with different degrees of depth until your arms feel refreshed.
A list of self-care ideas for massage therapist's hands wouldn't be complete without stretching. The palms together, wrists flexed at 90 degrees, is a favorite.
Another stretch helpful for massage therapist hands is to open the palm by outstretching your arm in front of you, palm up, and gently pulling each finger toward the ground individually. This can also be done starting with palm down, as in the picture, and pulling fingers up towards the sky. You may be surprised how some fingers are more limited in this movement than others.
No matter how long you've been practicing massage, you understand the necessity of ongoing self-care. Take the ideas above to make your own perfect self-care routine and work pain-free always.
Until next time
Be fit, be strong, and do some self-care for your hands today.
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