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What Burn Out is and Why it Happens to Massage Therapists

Updated on May 3, 2018
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Leeann Hysaw has earned 11 years of experience in massage therapy having graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute in 2007.

Defining Burn Out

The term “burn out” conjures up the image of fire. Objects burn and when all the flammable matter is exhausted the fire is said to burn out. This is what can happen to people. Imagine a massage therapist as a lit candle. A candles purpose is to burn and give off light and a massage therapist purpose is to focus their energy into helping others through their work. If a candle is left lit it will eventual consume itself, letting the wax melt and the wick turn to cinders until there is nothing left of the candle and the light goes out.

Now imagine the therapist, using all their strength and energy, performing massage after massage, never stopping until the fire inside them that pushes them to keep going eventually is extinguished. They will have nothing left to give and will no longer be able to massage. This moment of disaster can manifest in different ways and it is important for a therapist to notice the signs in order to plan a preemptive strike to stave off Burn out all together or help nurse themselves back to a place of well-being.

To Understand Burn Out Think of a Massage Therapist as a Candle

"If a candle is left lit it will eventual consume itself, letting the wax melt and the wick turn to cinders..."

Causes of Burn Out

There exist millions of different contributing factors to the development of Burnout in a massage therapist. Everything from who a therapist chooses to work for to the amount of massages they perform each week can work against them of for them when it comes to the longevity of their massage career. Though the multiple, smaller aspects could take a lifetime to consider there are a few larger, general causes of burnout that can be gathered into types like physical burnout or mental and emotional burnout.

Physical burnout occurs when a therapist has been massaging to long or too hard during a given period and results in injury quick. When it comes to emotional or metal burnout it can become a little trickier since a person’s entire life can come into play. A therapist who is stressed in her home life can often transfer the stress to work. Stress can move in the opposite direction as well but either way it is a much more complicated type of burnout and can cause each therapist to manifest system in different ways and at different rates. Work related contributors can be when a therapist feels they are undervalued by their employers, not receiving enough compensation, being treated poorly, or being expected to perform too many massages and given unreasonable schedules.

No matter the type of burnout a therapist has it can affect new massage therapists as well as seasoned ones and manifest itself as weakness, recurring exhaustion, injury or even depression and anger. The first thing many therapists notice is that they suddenly do not feel strong enough to perform the same depth of massage or, performing the same amount of massage as they normally do leaves them feeling tired and sore for longer periods of time. If these symptoms are ignored they may find themselves injured with torn muscles or inflammation and pain like in the case of carpel tunnel. Also, some therapist may slowly begin to feel depressed or upset after performing massages and no longer feel like they are capable or willing to continue. If these feelings go unchecked they eventually may develop feelings of resentment or anger at their job.

Therapists may consider hanging up their holsters permanently due to Burn Out

Small choices mean a lot

“Everything from who a therapist chooses to work for to the amount of massages they perform each week can work against them of for them when it comes to the longevity of their massage career.”

Preventing or Healing Burn Out Symptoms

A therapist should try their best to take a preventative approach to burnout. The first thing they must do if know the symptoms and develop the ability to recognize them in themselves. If a therapist is good at recognizing when they are becoming exhausted, begin to feel like they are stressing or run ragged in any way, then they will be able to start fixing things before it really becomes a problem. Identify that there is a problem then identify how best to solve it. If your waking up each morning and your wrist hurt when you put pressure on them then you remember your working an extra day to help your boss out, its probably time to ask to have that day taken off so that your body has a chance to heal.

Even when a therapist is trying their best to take care of themselves sometimes they still develop burnout. When burnout happens its important to take time off or, if that’s not possible, shorten your week or your working day a little. Try stress reducing activities and think more about doing things that make you happy, only when you build yourself back up will you be able to give of yourself again. Massage therapists give so much of themselves to their clients and can easily forget to perform self-care. Get massages yourself or look into learning a new type of massage to get you excited again and give you a new tool to use to prevent repetitive motion damage to your muscles so that you can keep massaging.

Burnout can take place slowly over long periods of time.

“Massage therapists give so much of themselves to their clients and can easily forget to perform self-care.”

Everything Considered

So, what is burn out for massage therapists? A point they reach where they can't or won’t keep giving massage. They have worked themselves so hard for so long that their bodies and minds are breaking down. Perhaps it’s a severe injury that takes them out, perhaps its more mental or emotional but eventually some therapists need to leave the business even if only for a short time. But it is not all darkness and doom. The good news is that, for the most part, you can avoid burnout by taking care of yourself and knowing when to rest and even if you don't there are ways where you can ride it out then get back into the career again later down the line. Just be aware of how you feel and always pay attention to your emotions, if something doesn’t feel good or right, don't do it, don’t work those long shifts or take a client that doesn’t mesh with your style just because you feel it’s your duty. The therapist matters just as much as the client and a therapist can’t help anyone by letting themselves burnout.


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    • TMolar profile image


      22 months ago from southern california

      I agree


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