There are times during a massage when every massage therapist needs to or chooses to sit down. While I have my own opinion about when and how often a therapist should sit, I will keep this discussion focused on the best body mechanics while performing the seated portion of a massage.
In my experience hiring and working with MT's in my clinic I found many therapists weren't shown specific body mechanics while seated. They had some for standing but then grabbed the stool, sat down and all good use of their body went out the window. Including posture!
Seated massage is still work. The stool is not there to take a break or sit on because you're tired or your back hurts. The seated position is only used when a massage therapist can't safely perform the massage stroke standing. In other words, if the body mechanics are better seated than standing, a seated position should be taken.
The posture while seated should include a straight spine stacked tall as if a string is pulling you skyward from the crown of your head. The core muscles should be lightly engaged to support the back and the working arms. Weight should be distributed equally between the sit bones or ischial tuberosity. No slouching. When the spine is lengthened and the shoulders are back, the serratus anterior can engage to stabilize the scapula and support the arms while they work. While seated, the support of the arms by the muscles of the shoulder girdle is important.
Just like a standing weight shift is used to move through different strokes, a seated weight shift will be used to save your hands. Leaning back during neck traction is a perfect example. There are a few strokes while seated where leaning forward and back from the waist is safest for a therapists back, arms and hands. Work smarter not harder. If range of motion or a static stretch is in order, roll the stool to the side and position your body in front of your work.
One foot must always be on the floor but two feet connected to the floor is preferred. This grounds your work. This also allows for your core to engage and gives you a solid base of support while working with your hands. Seated therapist's work actually feels different to the in-tune recipient when feet are on the floor. Different as in better. The massage is better and more connected feeling when a therapist's feet are on the ground.
Stool height is partially therapist preference. Some therapists like to be above their work and position the stool high. While being higher than your client can be good for some head and neck work take caution to aim your breathing away from the client's face. One of the largest complaints from clients is feeling the therapists breath on their face. YUCK! The rule of thumb for stool height is to be sitting with your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle or more. Stool height will relate to table height and the height of the therapist but these variables are already set for standing work so pick a stool height that follows the angle of your hips and saves your hands and forearms. If you don't have a hydraulic stool they are worth the roughly $100 and are a necessary piece of equipment to stay healthy throughout your career.
Neck work may be the time when most therapists take a seat for a prolonged period of time. Read more about seated massage here. Sitting down during sessions is inevitable and depending what type of massage you're giving you may be seated longer than the few minutes during a Swedish massage. Practicing and refreshing your body mechanics is always a good investment in your career and your body.
Until next time
Be fit, be strong and sit straight
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