You CAN massage as long as you want. With the current number of injured therapists rising, the need for awareness around body mechanics and self-care is increasingly important. In a recent study, 83% of massage therapists reported work-related pain in the wrist or thumb at some point during their careers.
The Massage Therapy Foundation has an ongoing Ergonomics Project which was explained in a podcast I happened upon this morning.
Here is my synopsis of the podcast.
You have control over EVERYTHING but genetics. If you were born with scoliosis, for example, your massage career health may require more attention than someone without a genetic health condition.
So what can you control?
According to Stefan Shulz from Briotix, the 5 risk factors their company uses to determine a risk profile for any profession are:
The massage industry has been reported as having one of the highest rates of burn-out within the first 2 years of entering the field. Let's look at some ways to keep yourself in tip-top shape and avoid the path to burn-out.
There are a good number of places to work right out of school to gain experience if you choose that route BUT remember to work up to a full schedule. It’s never wise to jump into a river before knowing how fast the current is.
Massage school taught you how to massage but no school can duplicate the number of hours you will find working full time in a busy spa, chiropractor’s office, or massage chain. Too many clients too soon is a sure way to get injured. It’s similar to training for an athletic event. You want to increase the workload you ask of your body over time.
Set a boundary for the maximum number of clients you can see a day and talk with your employer about it. If they aren’t...
It's easy to overuse hands during a workday, and then they are still needed for everything we do after work. We need our hands for all aspects of life and daily activities.
A weekend gardening project, painting a room in the house, or trimming a tree all use the same muscles massage therapists use while working. Those are sporadic activities, but what about a massage therapist's hobby that requires hand repetitive movements? Playing the piano or guitar, knitting or crocheting, sewing, gardening are all movements that wouldn't give the hands the rest they need.
When your chosen profession and the activities you love require hands to have extra care, here are the top five ways to provide excellent self care to your hands.
Being self-employed brings a different set of scheduling challenges than therapists who have someone else writing their schedule.
We had time to learn and practice good body mechanics, and now, months or years later, maybe we've gotten lazy, picked up bad habits, or made adjustments because the room we work in is too small.
The main reason massage therapists' bodies begin to hurt is bad body mechanics. We are really good at modifying and compensating our body mechanics for:
To help therapists who are in their first year out of massage school and those who've been massaging for 20 years, here are the most important body mechanics practices to stay working pain-free.
Using feet and legs to your full advantage takes some...
Massage therapists use their hands and other parts of their arms all day giving massage so when elbow pain starts it's an all hands on deck moment.
Really, the prevention should have started long before the pain shows up.
Knowledge is power so let's look at why the elbow pain is happening and then how we can prevent and treat it.
The short answer is poor body mechanics but that doesn't help you unless you know what you are doing that's causing the pain.
Massage therapists use their hands A LOT during a massage session. Hands are our main tool.
You should be using other tools at least 40% of the massage but if you're determined to use your hands, let's see the specific reasons why the elbow pain starts.
While you are using petrissage be aware that your wrists are staying neutral.
When kneading, aim to knead without a lot of...
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...
Remember how remarkable an awesome neck massage feels? I hope you've received at least one in your life that really stands out. Whether it's helping clients with headaches, stress relief or neck pain, a skilled neck massage gets results. But when sessions cause strain to fingers, hands and forearms, what can we as massage therapists do to save our bodies? We need to be smart about body mechanics, know our limits and honor them!
When the client is lying prone it's easier to maintain good body mechanics but we are still able to over-work the hands and fingers. Think of petrissage at the back of the neck, circles on the scalp or friction along the upper trapezius. All of these techniques can cause strain to the fingers and hands if joints are not kept in alignment. Weight shift while petrissaging, use straight fingers for circles and friction and you should be able to give your...
We've all had that client on our table who wants deeper and deeper work. For many years I would push, contort and ultimately strain my body to heed their request. Anything to make the client come back for another session. Does this sound familiar?
It's hard to find the balance between what is good for your body and what will be deep enough to work for the client's body.
Here are the top tips to follow so you don't injure yourself while working deeper for a client.
When we slow down our work, it becomes more specific and allows us to get deeper pressure. If you are used to flowing quickly from one stroke to the next, cut your speed in half and really feel what is happening under your hands. Stop and hold. Use a compression, cross fiber friction, or move to a deep tissue stroke or myofascial release. Wipe off some oil to reduce the glide over...
Breath is energy. Breath is life. Breath is grounding. Massage therapists can use breath to make their strokes more connected and effective. Although breathing doesn't require constant thought, when we turn our focus to noticing our breath great things begin to happen.
Have you ever watched an infant sleep? Their belly rises and falls as they breathe. This shows we innately know the correct way to breathe. As we grow responsibility grows and with age our breathing begins to turn away from our wise infant breathing. Most of us become chest breathers instead of belly breathers. Stop for a moment and observe your breath now. Is your navel or chest moving with inhalation and exhalation? Most adults breathe shallowly within their chest. Shallow breathing leads to tight muscles, tension, and can contribute to digestive issues. If we visualize oxygen entering through our nose and going all the way down to...
These past few months (since mid- March) have been nothing short of weird, crazy, scary, and ultimately life changing. Who ever imagined a world wide sweep of a virus would lead to stay at home orders. WHAT?! Stay home? Overnight I became a home-school mom with an income that came to a screeching halt. I do realize others have more serious health related risks associated with a new, incurable virus on the loose and I was merely inconvenienced with the home school part but however this pandemic has touched your life, it's a big deal for you. It's a big deal for all of us. Is there a silver lining? I'm a cup half full person so here's one area where COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise.
While there are many massage therapists without income which leads to stress and a host of other problems, I couldn't help but notice the frequency of posts on social media commenting how their body needed a break and this "forced" break...