Registered massage therapists have a duty to provide the very best in patient care. They dedicate their careers to helping others find relief from a range of conditions that often result in chronic pain and restricted mobility. In a physically active, service-oriented career like massage therapy, it is essential for MTs to pay attention to their own health and well-being to ensure they remain vital, strong and able to effectively respond to the needs of their patients.
Through use of good body mechanics learned in massage therapy school, MTs are mindful of how they use their bodies during treatment. Proper positioning can reduce strain in the knees, hips, shoulders and wrists, integrating the therapist’s entire body in transferring movement to the patient. For example, experienced massage therapists take notice of how their wrists are positioned during therapy – maintaining straight wrists supported by the rest of the body prevents injury and a loss of sensation, which ultimately allows the MT to deliver the most effective massage treatment.
MTs are also careful not to strain or use excessive muscular effort while working on patients, thereby exposing themselves to injury and fatigue. For instance, instead of habitually reaching across the body to perform treatment, experienced massage therapists move around the massage table, mindful of their own posture and minimizing opportunities for over-extension.
For massage therapists, self-care means paying attention to the body mechanics inherent in the various movements they perform and positions they assume during treatment – such as sitting, bending, lifting, pulling, and applying deep pressure. Through rigorous observation and adjustment, MTs can better preserve their own flexibility and strength, ensuring a longer and more productive career.
Hydraulic and electric tables have done wonders in supporting the comfort and effectiveness of busy massage therapists. A massage table set too high or too low puts unnecessary strain on the therapist and may compromise the effectiveness of treatment. Correct table height is dependent not only on the MT, but also on the size of the patient and the massage techniques being used. Although all massage tables are adjustable, only hydraulic or electric tables are easily adjusted during treatment. For example, a MT may perform treatments such as cranial sacral therapy while seated and will lower the hydraulic table to prevent back strain. Also, the table can be easily lowered for patients needing assistance getting on the table before it is raised to working height. Many MTs find that having the option to adjust the massage table greatly improves the quality of service they provide, while helping to avoid postural strain.
To warm-up and wind-down their muscles, MTs may perform stretches in between patients, or schedule a regular exercise class (such as yoga) during the week. Of course, MTs may also seek out the expertise of a fellow RMT to address any specific aches and pains. It is also best practice to drink plenty of water throughout the busy work day in order to circulate nutrients, energize muscles and lubricate the joints.
For massage therapists, success typically comes with a growing demand for services - which in turn may result in an increasingly hectic and demanding schedule. And for RMTs who have worked hard to cultivate a loyal patient base, it can be difficult to say no or set strict limits on how many working hours each day should include. It’s entirely understandable that recent graduates of massage therapy training programs would want to explore any new opportunity that comes their way; however, experienced practitioners understand the value and long-term benefits of pacing themselves.
What other measures do you think MTs can take to protect and promote their own wellbeing?