Body Mechanics for the Massage Therapist

Massage Therapist and Patient

 

How’s this for irony. As a massage therapist, clients look to you to provide them with relief from painful muscles, tendons, and joints, resulting from an injury on the job, sports activity, or aging.  Yet, you may be negligent about your own adherence to good body mechanics on the job resulting in injury. When you are injured, your work's effectiveness with clients can diminish, or in the worst case, you’ll need to take a break from performing massage.

 

That should be the wake-up call if you are not taking good care of yourself on the job and adhering to good body mechanics.  Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issued in 2006 indicated that more than half of the injuries suffered by massage therapists were sprains and strains. More than half of these were the result of worker/motion position.[1] Hand and wrist sprains and strains account for a significant number of these injuries.  One study found that cumulative hand strain injuries that occur while performing a massage may lead to osteoarthritic symptoms. Female MTs are at greater risk of developing this condition.[2]  Other common injuries in the massage therapy profession include tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

Proper Body Mechanics

If you are experiencing pain when performing the massage, you’ll first want to check your posture: [3]

  • Upper and lower back straight
  • Neck straight
  • Knees relaxed position
  • Relaxed arms, shoulders, hands, wrists, and fingers.

 

Proper Table Height

Here are some tips to ensure you are working at a proper table height.[4]

  • The table should be at an appropriate height and in good working condition.
  • Your fingertips or first knuckle should brush the table when you stand beside the table with your arms straight.
  • A lower table is preferable to a higher table.

 

Stance

Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed forward. Try to have one foot forward and the other back. When massaging, face the stroke's direction with your toes, hips, shoulders, and head aligned, and remember that your back foot should remain on the floor. Suggest that if the massage stroke is left, use the left arm and put your left foot forward and vice versa. Also, lean on the client to generate pressure from your core instead of pushing with muscles.[5]

 

Stroke

It’s hard on your joints if you massage in static, so move in the direction of your strokes. Your hands and arms should move as one unified force.[6] Whenever possible, use an uphill stroke. Also, the upper arm should not be more than 45 degrees away from the body.  In the case of a longer stroke, take a step forward and then continue the stroke rather than reaching out with the upper arm.[7]

 

Use of bodyweight

Lean into the strokes with your body weight. This enables you to exert much less energy than when you are trying to power through a stroke.[8] In addition to good body mechanics, some other things you’ll want to do to take care of yourself:

 

Alternate between standing and sitting

Standing is fatiguing to your leg muscles and lower back. Sitting allows you to rest your legs, but it also can put a strain on your lower back.

 

Mind your breathing

Using your breath is important for balancing and centering your body and for ease and fluidity of movement. Take a few deep breaths by inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowing through your mouth, making sure to breathe throughout the session or when you feel tension or pain in your body.

 

Take breaks

You need to get up and move around during the day. Also, take breaks between sessions to unwind, stretch and catch up on some other duties, like checking email.

 

Stay hydrated

The human body is approximately 60 percent water. Since you lose water throughout the day by breathing, sweating, and digestion, you need to drink fluids and eat foods that contain water to rehydrate.

Your clients depend on you for their health and wellness. That means taking care of your own health to be there for them.

 

[1] “Work Smarter Not Harder. Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists,” American Massage Therapy Association, March 7, 2014. https://www.amtamassage.org/publications/massage-therapy-journal/work-smarter-not-harder/
[2] Heinmari Kruger, Valencia Khumalo, Nicolette Nadene Houreld,
The prevalence of osteoarthritic symptoms of the hands amongst female massage therapists, Health SA Gesondheid, Volume 22,2017,Pages 184-193,ISSN 1025-9848,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hsag.2017.01.006. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S102598481730011X
[3] “Importance of Posture in Massage Therapy,” Massage Guide, Massage Guide. https://bestmassagechairguide.com/importance-of-posture-in-massage-therapy/
[4] “Massage Therapist Self Care: Posture & Body Mechanics,” Massage Therapy Reference Guide, Accessed January 26, 2020. https://www.massagetherapyreference.com/massage-therapist-self-care-posture-body-mechanics/
[5] “Work Smarter Not Harder. Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists.”
[6] “11 Tips for Ensuring Longevity in Your Massage Career,” The Massage Business Mama.com, Accessed January 26, 2021. https://themassagebusinessmama.com/proper-body-mechanics-for-massage-therapists/
[7] “Work Smarter Not Harder. Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists.”
[8] “11 Tips for Ensuring Longevity in Your Massage Career.”
Massage Therapist and Patient
Massage Therapist and Patient