Good Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists to Prevent Injury
Massage therapy is rewarding but strenuous career.
Most massage therapists are individuals who truly care about people and enjoying connecting with and helping others. They will often tell you how rewarding their job is, and how much they love what they do for a living. Despite this, most massage therapists don't last more than three years in the profession. This is due to the intense physical strain that massage can have on the therapist's body. In order to prolong a massage therapy career or even just prevent injury when doing casual massage for your loved ones, all people practicing massage should follow these body mechanics, techniques that will prevent injury and provide the best massage for the receiver.
Put your body in good alignment.
Make sure that your spine is straight. Don't bend your neck too far up or down, and keep your feet in an asymmetrical stance. Most of your weight should be on your back leg, and you should use the opposite arm to generate pressure.
Stay behind the massage stroke.
Many beginners will try to keep their body on top of their stroke, which can cause injury to the wrist and will put uneven pressure on the receiver. As a massage practitioner, you should be able to look down your arm at a 45-60 degree angle and see your hand making contact with the other person.
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Relax your muscles and use your body weight to your advantage.
As your are giving the massage, be aware of the muscles in your wrists, hands, arms, and shoulders. Keep your muscles relaxed. Many people mistakenly believe that upper body strength is the key to a rigorous massage. While massage practitioners do need to build up their muscle strength, most of the pressure of the massage should actually come from the practitioner's body weight. Not using your body weight to your advantage can leave you with sore muscles, tendonitis, or an injury.
Avoid using your fingers or thumbs.
As you are giving a massage, it can be very tempting to use your fingers and thumbs to palpate small muscles or to target knots or problem areas. Try to avoid doing this at all costs, as it can cause serious injury to your hands. I have seen massage therapists with swelling in their fingers and elbows because of overuse.
Instead, support your fingers with the opposite hand so that you aren't putting too much pressure on your joints. Better yet, don't use your fingers or thumbs; use your knuckles, the fleshy part of the palm of your hand, a soft fist, an elbow, or a massage tool.
Don't over-extend your wrists, thumbs, fingers, or knees.
In massage lingo, this is called "hyperextension". It means that you bend your joints way too far back, so that you are putting more pressure on them than is comfortable. This joints were not designed to bear a lot of weight, and putting weight on them and keeping them in the same position for a long time can cause long-term problems and can be the end of your massage career.
Take frequent breaks to sit, stretch, and move.
With modern spas, many companies want massage therapists to work long hours with only 5 or 10 minutes between clients. This is good for making a lot of money, but it is terrible for the massage therapist's body. Therapists should take a break after every massage to move and stretch, and sit so that their legs and back don't get tired.
Something that I find helpful is to shake out my hands after a massage. I envision that I'm shaking off the energy of the person I just worked on so that I can start out the next massage with a clean slate.
Good luck and have fun!
With practice, these body mechanics will become second nature. If you would like a career as a massage therapist, they are absolutely crucial to giving the most to your clients and getting the most out of your work.