As with many other professions, it’s easy to find a comfortable position - a comfort zone – and slip into that without giving it much thought. This could happen for various reasons, but with massage therapists it mainly applies to their routines and techniques. After all, once we qualify, essentially we’re done. We’ve learned the tricks of the trade and we are officially ready to start working as a massage therapist.
At this point, our heads are still full of everything we’ve just learned, from the techniques to the biology, the contraindications and the customer service. We have probably been looking at where we might want to work or what equipment we should be investing in, so the last thing we’ll be thinking about is whether we know enough in terms of techniques to keep things varied and interesting, or whether we have a broad enough spectrum of abilities to appeal to a wide range of customers. We know that all of our customers are different. Their bodies are different, their aches and pains are different, and most importantly what they want from us varies a great deal from day to day.
We know that it is important to properly assess a new customer when they come in, so we will (if we are a conscientious therapist) assess their medical conditions, habits and health, and we will ask them what their problem areas are and what they want to achieve from the massage. This is all well and good, but are we going to be doing this every time they come in? It can be very easy to get familiar with customers and to think we know what they like and what their problems are. If we’re exchanging pleasantries with them when they come in, and we’re perhaps on the busy side that day, it can be very easy to assume we don’t need to ask too many questions. Often customers are a little shy about asking for exactly what they want, so the chances are they won’t say anything much. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I would hazard a guess that many won’t interrupt you once you've started in order to tell you that they don’t want you to do it quite the way you did last time; so if you don’t ask and they feel uncomfortable telling you, you run the risk of them leaving feeling disappointed that they didn’t get the experience they were hoping for. It may seem like a small detail, but really it’s our job to find out – we need the customer to feel that we are paying attention to them, that we care about their experience and that they are not just a paycheck but a real person with changing needs.
Isn't variety the spice of life?
The truth is – and again, this applies to so many things in life – that it is human nature to become bored with routine. If we are doing the same thing day in, day out, it is monotonous. We start to feel like robots; the saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ isn’t so well known for nothing. We strive for change because predictability goes against nature. It is dull. A massage - if done by a well trained and attentive therapist - usually feels pleasant. But if massage is your weekly treat, or something absolutely necessary for your physical health, then you are going to notice if it is exactly the same each time. Let’s imagine that your customer thinks you’re great, and so they keep coming back. But they also wish that when you were doing shoulder petrissage, you’d more frequently move your hands ever so slightly down to hit that nagging sore spot they were hoping to ease when they made the booking. Perhaps they’d mentioned it once last week, but you’d been busy since and forgotten it, and they don’t want to bother you with it again. It may not be long before that customer is wondering who else in the area might be worth checking out, or what other styles of massage are out there that they haven’t yet tried; they could be wondering whether the Shiatsu practitioner down the road is the one who can get rid of that annoying niggle. It’s probably nothing personal, but the point is, we have to be willing to offer the best services if we want to keep our customers. It’s not the kind of industry where people come to you out of loyalty – they likely come to you because you make them feel better than another therapist does. If your massage becomes boring and repetitive for them, the bookings are likely to dry up.
Reframe to up your game
From the therapist’s perspective, it can be a little daunting to try out new things. For a start, who are you going to practice them on? When you do it for a living - and especially if you’re tired - giving out free massage treatments for the sake of learning new things probably doesn’t fill you with glee. We certainly don’t want to experiment on valued clients. That’s understandable, but if you feel put off by trying new things, it might be time to reframe it. Spicing up your routine can be interesting! You could take a look at different styles of massage… for example, if all you’ve done is Swedish massage, it wouldn’t hurt to look at Thai massage, Shiatsu, Indian head massage or sports massage to see what tips and tricks you might be able to introduce into your routine. Who knows, you may even be able to add a whole new therapy to your menu! You probably don’t need to retrain in any of these areas unless you really want to; there is a lot of information online, from videos to articles and blogs – there are even short day or weekend courses available on sites like Groupon, and while we know they aren’t intended to be an official certificate, they may just offer that little extra you need to keep you and your customers feeling fresh.
Do you ever feel like you could do with a shake up? Do you feel stuck in a rut from time to time? What do you find are the best ways to keep your routine interesting, and what experiences or feedback have you had from introducing new methods?
We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders about the shape of the industry today, both good and the bad, focusing on what challenges newly qualified therapists face and what benefits can be taken advantage of today.
Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!
A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.
The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because
Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.
Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.
Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.
Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.
Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.
If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:
Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.
Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.
The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.
You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.
Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.
A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:
1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.
The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.
You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!
There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.
1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):
If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.
2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):
The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.
The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.
1. Rectangle shaped with square corners
This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.
2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners
Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.
3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient
A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.
This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.
The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.