I've Qualified As A Massage Therapist - Now What?

September 18, 2014 0 Comments

Guest post from Daniel Ruscillo of BodyAid, on how to progress your career and stay up to date on developments in the body work and massage therapy industry. There's a little bonus at the end for you, too!


As soon as we are qualified as massage therapists, most of us will soon start thinking, "What’s next?"
That’s how I felt at least, and in hindsight there would definitely be a few things I should have immediately got on with.
As in every profession, it’s important to keep up to date and understand the particular industry developments and latest research reports. I qualified as a sports massage therapist over 7 years ago and one of the first recommendations I would make is to get some experience.
My first few months were largely spent in clinics and private massages at the client’s home. This is great in terms of ‘that’ type of experience, but my skills only really developed once I came out of my comfort zone. Make sure you challenge yourself!  
So to begin with, look at lots of different areas where massage is performed, and in my case specifically sports massage - not just areas you are comfortable in. Here are some examples of the areas I eventually experienced:
1. Work in/on events. I was the guy at the end of a marathon ready to help weary runners and remove some of the pain! It was fast and furious and completely different to a clinic setting.
2. Sports Clubs or Football Clubs. This involved a lot of pre- and post event massage as well as some injury assessment. Again this enabled me to practice differing positions, techniques and make sure my knowledge was up to date. This type of work can be found by volunteering or simply writing to the event or club. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, as most will respond.
3. I offered my services at local businesses. Office based work, where employees could come into the break room and have a chair massage for 5-10 minutes. Companies like this sort of thing, as it keeps the workforce happy and relaxed, and increases productivity.
4. Care Homes. A great experience dealing with more frail and elderly clients. This allowed me to practice different depths of applications, while juggling a lot of contradictory external factors that might effect a treatment. 
Gaining a vast range of experience also helped me to gain more confidence.
Your confidence is essential, as your confidence will transmit to your clients, making them feel safe and confident in you as a therapist. I waited a while but having my time again, I would have taken these steps as soon as possible. In essence it will be easier for newbies, as you haven’t picked up any pre-conceptions or bad habits.
At a certain point in your career you will start to think about advancing your qualifications and knowledge.
Look at taking extra courses to expand your portfolio. There are a wide range of courses available that really can suit all lifestyles. I looked for more ‘massage courses’, as I thought that learning more techniques or ways of doing things would make me a better therapist. 
Now, that will not always be the case if you just stick to one stream of therapy. If we take any type of massage, fundamentally the goal is to relieve tension in the muscles and help relieve any pain or tension that is affecting our client’s everyday life. In hindsight I would definitely have told myself to look more closely at courses along the anatomy and physiology lines.
Why, you might ask? 
Well, knowing how and why the body moves is essential to improving our application of massage.
Knowing the right areas to target, as at times there might be compensating muscles that need attention and not just the reported area. You are also more able to identify any potential activities that your client is performing that might be the cause of discomfort or tension.
Another route could be something like a gym based course, such as gym instruction.
Again this might sound a little crazy, but a course along these lines would help give you an idea of post-treatment work. It would give you the confidence, qualification and knowledge base to advise clients on exercises that can help relieve symptoms.
This would create a complete service, where referrals would become more frequent. A course along these lines could also help you to develop valuable relationships within the industry. 
It is difficult at times to know what CPD (continuing professional development) you should undertake. But in my experience, aim for areas that will enhance your knowledge and allow you to be very diverse. 
One of the main reasons therapists don’t grow is the reluctance to do anything other than ‘massage’.
In actual fact being a massage therapist is much more than just that. You need to understand client needs, the causes (reasons) behind appointments, and in a lot of cases be prepared to offer post-treatment advice. Building this type of reputation around your practice will ensure you gain a lot of referrals and demand in the long run. 
If you need any advice or would like to look into CPD courses, such as Sports Massage or Gym Instruction, please do not hesitate to come visit us at http://www.bodyaidsolutions.co.uk You will also get 10% off any course if you mention Massage Warehouse! 

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!