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In this Post: How to have proper body mechanics for massage therapists is an important piece to ensure longevity in the field. Learn 11 tricks for having good alignment.
Proper body mechanics are essential for massage therapists! By utilizing correct alignment, you are helping ensure longevity in your career. If you fail to put emphasis here, your days as a massage therapist will be numbered, I promise, it’s that important!
Not only does having proper body mechanics prevent injury and fatigue, it also helps improve the quality of the massages you give. Did you ever think that when your body is comfortable giving work, it is probably doing a better job of massaging? Well, it’s true!
It is so easy to get into bad habits when it comes to body mechanics. In the beginning, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to cut corners, but this is when it is most important to develop proper habits. It is much easier to start with good habits than to break deeply ingrained patterns that don’t serve us! The chronic misuse of our bodies is what leads to injuries and surgeries.
Parable of a Boat
The visual that resonates the most with me is the one of a small ore boat tied to a dock.
Imagine someone comes up and pushes the boat with a large, jolting force. The boat will be yanked to the end of the rope and then eventually swing back to where it originally sat. It might take a moment for the boat to settle down, but the rope probably won’t break.
Whereas, imagine a person, (or several people taking turns, as one person might get very tired) relentlessly pushing the boat. Imagine the people aren’t pushing with a lot of force, but that it never seizes. When there is constant, yet light, sustained pressure pushing the boat in the same direction, over time the rope will break, and the boat will be pushed out to sea.
Constant, sustained, light pressure over time is more powerful than a jolt of force on the body.
Don’t let your body be like the boat, way out in the middle of the ocean, anchored to nothing, with no one to row you home. Take care of the one vessel you were given in life, and learn proper body mechanics now!
How to Have Proper Body Mechanics For Massage Therapists
1) Make sure your table is at a proper height –
Unfortunately, we aren’t all blessed to have hydraulic tables. Therefore, we must be very conscientious about the height at which we set our tables.
There have been times when I have been surprised by a sizeable first-time client. I have a choice. I could either leave my table at the originally designated height, or I could take the one minute it takes to lower the table a notch or two. I take the minute. My body thanks me!
Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. When I first started giving massages, my table was too high. It was creating problems for my shoulders. So much so that I was going to PT. So I lowered my table, this began to cause pain in my lower back. What I realized was that I needed to bend more at my knees as opposed to my hips. This alleviated all of my lower back issues.
Don’t be afraid to play with table height. And if you are so blessed as to be learning on a hydraulic table, make sure to practice giving massages without changing the height, so that if you are ever faced with working in an environment with a stationary table, you have practice at figuring out the proper height for you.
2) Bend at the knees –
I mentioned earlier how I was starting to have lower back problems before I got comfortable bending at my knees. Our knees are amazing tools, utilize them to bring yourself closer to your client.
3) Avoid overuse of your fingers –
Instead use palms, forearms, elbows, and fists. Our fingers are small joints, which makes them more prone to injury. Use them sparingly, instead use your larger muscle groups.
It may feel scary at first to use your elbows, but they are wonderful tools. Use the opposite hand of the elbow you are using to guide your elbow around the bony landmarks.
Experiment with using the side of your palm versus the heel, a soft fist, and broad forearm.
4) Use Your Bodyweight –
When you lean into the strokes with your body weight, you can exert much less energy than when you are trying to power through a stroke. The key here is working in a stance that allows you to lean into your work comfortably.
5) Dance with the strokes –
Don’t massage in static; it is hard on your joints. Makes sure to move in the direction of your strokes. Flow with your hards and arms, moving as one unified force.
6) Use a stool –
I know one therapist who refused to sit on a stool when she does neck work; this is crazy to me! Anytime I get a chance to sit while I am working, I am happy. I know this may make me sound lazy, but really I am all about conserving my energy. I want to use the least amount of energy possible to get the job done. Because when I am sitting comfortably in a chair, I can focus entirely on the neck in front of me. As opposed to if I were squatting and my thighs were burning. I’m not trying to get a workout while I massage, I save that for my gym.
7) Drop your shoulders –
Don’t wear your shoulders as earrings. This causes unnecessary tightness and leads to significant problems. Relax those shoulders down your back.
8) Avoid hyperextension –
Our knees, elbows, and fingers are areas where we can easily hyperextend if we aren’t careful. When we hyperextend, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility of arthritis down the road. Think about stacking your joints, relaxing them. Envision luscious space and fluid flowing through all of the tiny little spaces they inhabit.
9) Engage the core –
We all know how important it is to engage the core. Now do it! Our core is our basis for support, our center of gravity, and an important piece in the stability we will feel when giving massage.
10) Keep your head in line with your spine –
By keeping your head and spine aligned, you will avoid forward head posture, and it will help you to maintain an elongated, happy spine.
11) Brace to support vulnerable joints –
By using the opposite hand of the one you are working with to support your vulnerable joints, you are protecting them from injury.
Proper body mechanics ensure longevity in the massage field more so than almost any other determining factor. If you are hurting yourself when you work, you will not last in this field. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to the signs your body is sending you. If you can’t perform certain techniques because your body says “no” listen, it isn’t the end of the world that you can’t do every single move. Find alternate moves that achieve the same results.
If you notice you are repeatedly using poor body mechanics for a certain technique, don’t wait to fix the problem. The time is now to get in good habits with your posture and body mechanics! You only get one life with this body, use it wisely.
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008