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Choosing a Massage School – Criteria that Count

by Lisa Rose November 13, 2016

Choosing a Massage School – Criteria that Count

Whether you’re interested in becoming a massage therapist for the first time, or you just wish to add a few more treatment options to your massage menu, then you will know that there are a lot of schools to choose from and even more courses. It’s easy to go with the status quo on the latter, unless you have a special interest area. For example, most people interested in learning about massage will go for a Swedish massage course before they embark on other more specialised courses, because Swedish covers all the basic techniques and will give you great general knowledge. That may not be the right decision for everybody, but it’s a popular route for a reason.

So, assuming you’ve decided on the most suitable type of massage therapy for you, you might feel that the next logical step would be to see which is the nearest school to your home. This might be top priority for those who don’t have their own transport, or restrictions on their time, but unless you have no choice but to go with the most local school, it would still be prudent to consider other factors before making your final decision.

What kind of reputation and background does your prospective school have?

Do your homework on the school, their facilities and their staff. You can look for reviews of the school online, and evaluate carefully the information they offer to the public. Is it comprehensive? Does it answer the majority of your questions and leave you with confidence that they’ll be able to teach you everything you need to know? Is the qualification they offer suitable for your longer term needs, or will it serve as just a stepping stone before you need to undertake a more extensive period of study? If the latter is the case, consider carefully whether the fees they charge reflect this, or you could end up paying a lot more for your full tuition than you originally intended. Check whether the qualification you will receive allows you to gain proper insurance and registration with bodies you may have considered joining. If you’re not sure, you can contact these bodies (for example the FHT) to see what their requirements are before signing up to any school.

Ask the school (and/or look online) about their mission statement and policies. See if you can find testimonials from previous students and if at all possible, see if you are able to talk to any ex-students about the course and how they’ve used their qualification since. If your school is genuinely committed to your success, it will be obvious when you ask a few simple questions.

A brief search or phone call can help you to find out about your prospective tutors’ histories. If you are think you might need to understand medical conditions (other than the general tuition you will receive on most good courses) as part of your career, it wouldn’t hurt to find out if they have tutors who have extensive knowledge in this area. Then you will feel confident in assisting customers with medical conditions. You may be able to gain the approval of physicians who will recommend you to patients, and you’ll understand their expectations a lot better.

How many instructors does the school have – and who are they?

Some massage schools don’t need a large number of staff and manage fine with a minimal number of instructors. This can be ok, especially if you’re not aiming to make a career out of massage. It is worth considering whether or not a small number of staff can offer a wide enough range of experience, and whether or not they can mentor students as effectively as a well-staffed school might be able to. If you are going to a smaller school, it is a good idea to find out about the education and qualifications of the staff, not only what courses they are offering you.

Students will understandably have many questions along the way, but when competing for a chance to grab a moment of your busy teacher’s time, you may end up feeling that you have grey areas in your understanding and this could knock your confidence at exam time if left unaddressed. A good tutor will be more than happy answer all of your questions, so one way to get the measure of their attitude would be to ask the school if you can meet them before signing up. That way you can ask a few questions about their opinions, experience and how they find working at the school. How they handle you then should be a good indicator as to whether you will receive sufficient feedback over the duration of the course.

The more instructors available, the more you will have opportunities to evaluate a range of different styles and tap into a larger bank of experience and knowledge. You may be able to find a tutor with a similar style and attitude to yours, or the kind of career path you envisage yourself following. Such a tutor may provide you with more valuable information. Find out if any of the tutors practice massage outside the school’s course – if they are actively participating in the industry then their knowledge and experience is much more likely to be current, and you will know that they genuinely care about what they do.

Did you hit the jackpot first time with your course, or was there something you'd have done differently in hindsight? What were the most valuable insights your tutors gave you, and what advice would you give to other students? We like to hear your views, so please share! 

Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose


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Massage Table Size Guide

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

  1.  They are smaller in size (normally around 61cms wide) and as such have less materials
  2. They are sold by specialist retailers who also sell anything else they can import and turn a profit on. As such they just buy the cheapest massage tables they can find in China. They go for smaller sizes as they are cheaper.

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.


The Width of the Massage Table:

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.

measuring the width of a massage table

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.


The Height Of the Massage Table

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.


Massage Table Shape:

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.


4. Hour glass shaped with sharp gradient
Same as point above but instead of the it gradually going from wide to narrow, the massage table changes quickly from normal width to narrow width so people of very short stature can get in close.
5. Oval Shaped

 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.

oval massage table


Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!