Complacency in the Therapy Room

June 12, 2015 0 Comments

Doctors sometimes get a bad rap for becoming desensitized to their patients’ needs due to the sheer number of people they see every day. Of course, many Doctors remain completely professional in dealing with their patients, but most of us are familiar with the notion that Doctors can often seem less than interested in the well-being of the patient, just ushering people in and out without considering the emotional element that patients might be experiencing - especially if dealing with a potentially serious condition. Nevertheless, there is still an expectation most people still carry when they visit a physician: to be listened to in a human-to-human manner. We don’t want to be seen as merely a ‘patient’, but as a ‘person’ with valid concerns and feelings.

On the other hand, perhaps it is understandable that medical professionals are unable to maintain a genuine sympathy, day in day out, for years on end. The term ‘clinical’ generally refers to this kind of attitude. It is clearly not an accident that dictionary definition of this is ‘efficient and unemotional; coldly detached’.  Doctors may be getting away with complacency, but as massage therapists we know we need to present a consistent customer service ethic – and a personal, caring one at that. We do have a few things in common with Doctors, in that we are ostensibly working to provide a service or therapy that is beneficial to health. People come to us with expectations, and if we don’t fulfill them… well they just won’t come back! That’s one reason why Doctors may be less concerned about concealing their apathy than holistic therapists. They know that their customers will be back, regardless of the service – and if not, well it’s a simple case of "next, please!”

‘Putting a brave face on it’

So what of it when a massage therapist is having a bad day? Can they afford to let it show? It goes without saying that we are bound to be having a bad day from time to time. Massage can be very physically demanding! For example, a sports therapist could have a particularly challenging time of it if he or she was booked back-to-back with clients for a full day. What’s more, if he or she were a clinic employee, they may have had no say in the matter. Under such circumstances it seems highly likely that therapists are going to have to master the art of the ‘brave face’ from time to time.

There are any number of potential scenarios for a therapist to deal with on an average day. We usually try to conceal our stress because we understand that the customers don’t want to see an aggravated facial expression when they step into the therapy room for the treatment they’ve been looking forward to. So what if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep at home and an argument with your husband, and a rude, demanding customer comes in? Or if it’s the end of the day, your last customer turns out to be a large, muscular male and you know it’s going to be tough on your over-tired hands? The issues we face are real and can adversely affect us if we don’t develop a coping mechanism for them. But as we understand the general rules of customer service, we all know that it doesn’t pay to let resentment show, especially when a customer hasn’t done anything to challenge you.

Complacency is a multi-faceted trap

There are other ways in which we can become complacent. As a full-time massage therapist, we spend many days in the therapy room and things quickly become second nature to us. That can even be a plus point, as long as we don’t slip into auto-pilot mode. It is easy to become less observant and forget that every client is different, with unique needs and comfort zones. We may know the massage therapy etiquette like the backs of our hands, but does the client? Being a therapist is not necessarily just about the physical therapy. We need to be attentive to our clients because some of them might be nervous, shy, or just confused. If they’ve never had a massage before, they may not have any idea what is expected of them. We could leave them alone in the room just to come back five minutes later and find them still fully clothed and feeling awkward!

We shouldn’t forget that there are some fundamental processes to follow regardless of our mood, how familiar we are with the therapy or how busy or tired we are. A quality massage experience depends on several factors and clients don’t miss a trick with this. They are paying attention even when we aren’t, and our reputation as therapists depends on it.

Mood management – how do you cope?

When you’re having a challenging day in the therapy room, how do you ensure your mood, or fatigue goes unnoticed by clients? Do you think it’s important to do so, or do you prefer to be a little more authentic in the hope that clients will understand? What coping mechanisms do you have for dealing with stress at work? And lastly, do you have to make a concerted effort to avoid complacency? We would love to know!


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!