We have the best job. Restful atmosphere, the smell of trees and lavender, comfy tables to nap on when patients no-show - there is nothing that compares to massage therapy. We love our job, but it IS hard work. How can we balance caring for our patients, while not hurting ourselves?
1) Be the sniper, avoid the shotgun approach. The shotgun approach is effective - hit everything in the hopes that something works - but extremely hard on your hands. The best way to define and prioritize treatment goals? Assessment. Assessment is our friend. It starts as soon as we see them walk into our office, and can take as little as 60 seconds. Use the 80/20 rule - 80% of the work is done with 20% of the effort. Find that 20% with your brain, not your hands, and save yourself some pain later on.
2) Use the right lubricant. Relaxation massage, aromatherapy, and some lymph drainage techniques work better with oil - either pure oils, a product like Bon Vital Naturale Massage Oil or oil-based lotions. For deep tissue, you want something that will let you keep a grip on things. Look for a water-based cream or lotion like Biotone Controlled Glide Massage Creme. Keeping tissue drag will allow you to access deeper layers with less force.
3) Get the right equipment. An adjustable table is a must, preferably an electric one like the Prairie Electric Professional Massage Table. Don’t get more table than what you will use - not all of us need the Transformer table that could double as a modern art sculpture - but get the best table you can, especially if you plan to learn more than one modality, or share your space with another massage therapist. Relaxation massage and other modalities with less pressure are easier to do with a higher table, but deep tissue techniques sometimes require the table to be around your knees. How much difference does the table height make? One formula states, if your angle of force into the tissue is 60 degrees from perpendicular, you have lost 50% of your energy. Translation? Lower your table, put gravity and body weight to work, and your massage is instantly twice as effective with the same amount of effort.
Another must-have? A Swivel Stool like this on wheels. To quote an old military saying - Never stand when you can sit. Give yourself a break when you can, and make sure you can move it around with your feet so that you don’t break contact.
4) Relax. Don’t forget the lifestyle basics that we remind our patients about. Breathe with your strokes, push from your core not your upper body, and centre yourself before every patient. Keep healthy snacks and water close by for in-between appointments, and don’t overbook yourself.
For many of us, this started out as a job and became a passion. How do we stay in a job that we love? Working mindfully and purposefully focuses our energy. Having the right equipment is essential. It will pay for itself several times over. And relax! Enjoy the atmosphere, the music, and the essential oils. We have the best job!