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The National Massage Therapist Survey 2019

by Samantha Jenkins February 14, 2019

Clear speech bubbles from national survey

With the start of a new year, gradually disappearing from view, we wanted to know what are the challenges therapists are facing right now.

We asked 125 therapists to tell us the biggest challenges they face in their massage therapy business this year and the answers were pretty interesting.

Whilst it was great to hear some of you are looking forward to another successful year, many of you are struggling with some common therapist concerns.

We have broken these down into four categories to try to tackle them one by one and to offer some advice and solutions!



1 in 20 of you felt overwhelmed by the increasing number of massage therapists and by the changing face of the industry.


Sam Tulloch comment from massage therapist survey about biggest business challenges for 2019


In a competitive industry, you can set yourself apart, and make your life easier by working with your strengths.
Take five to make a list. What are your hobbies? Have you worked in previous industries? What links do you have in the community that another massage therapist might not have? These contacts can be a great a starting point and using that insider knowledge can put you ahead of the competition.
Reach out to previous employers you still have a good relationship with and use your knowledge of the stresses and strains of that particular job to promote how massage treatments could benefit their business! 

Others of you expressed concern about the increase in competition from spas and massage franchises.

Katya Jezzard-Puyraud comment from massage therapist survey about biggest business challenges for 2019


This is a difficult one, as there will always be clients looking for a bargain. Whilst customers are definitely looking for a relaxing space, maybe some carefully placed books or leaflets can help promote the more medical side of our work as massage therapists and shift people's understanding between the two experiences. 

Before beginning your massage treatment with your client, ask them what they are looking for. If a client says they are only looking to relax, subtly point out after the massage where any tension is being held and how you have helped to relieve it. This will demonstrate your knowledge and set your treatments apart. Keep notes on all your clients and mention any changes or progress you see when they return to prove the extra value regular appointments can have. 


12 per cent of you let us know you struggle to market your services to the public. It was fantastic to see some of the big ambitions out there.


Nicolle Mitchell comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019 


and many of you expressed frustration at trying to change perceptions around massage. 


Debbie Flower comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019


As self-employed massage therapists, many of you pointed out the many different hats you are wearing!


Chrissie Haskett comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019


Marketing can be stressful at any point during your career as a massage therapist but it is especially hard to know where to start! Each year the latest trends shift and we can feel pulled in an entirely new direction. At the start of this year, we wrote a 12 step guide for our blog, with easy actionable steps, taking you through this year's top marketing strategies to make the process less scary! 

But even those of you who have built up a strong list of clients, still face challenges. Certain times of year can be slow and it can be necessary to switch up your marketing strategy.


Tracey Turton comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019

The festive season can often be a quiet period for massage therapists. One way to combat this is by marketing gift cards. It brings new clients to your books and helps your customers shorten their Christmas shopping list! Learn more about using this technique in our post 'Massage the perfect Christmas gift' in the blog section of our website. 



1 in 6 of the massage therapists we surveyed said that their greatest challenge this year was finding the right equipment for their massage therapy business.


Janet Nathanielsz comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019


We saw this one as a bit of a challenge!

To meet with Janet's requirements we would recommend this lightweight massage table. With its' lightweight aluminium frame, this massage table comes in two different widths and weighs only 11.5 kg for the 28-inch version. There is space underneath for your knees and the Porta-Lite Delta II can also be adjusted to your clients' height in just 10 seconds! 


For mobile therapists, one concern raised was creating the right atmosphere when travelling to client’s homes or places of work.


Sarah Wilson comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019 

An aromatherapy diffuser is a great tool for helping to quickly transform a space into a more soothing environment and these comfy fleece pads consistently get great reviews for offering an extra level of comfort for customers. Both of these options are light and easy to transport and will help to create the relaxing ambience your massage clients are looking for, wherever you deliver their treatment.

Another concern raised by Laurie Paterson was the ongoing costs involved in running a massage therapy business. 


Laurie Paterson comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019


It is important to factor in these costs when setting your hourly rates and budgets for the year. We want to support our growing community of massage therapists so each week in our newsletter we provide a special offer on massage equipment. Sign up at the bottom of this page to save on massage therapy essentials.


Finding life/work balance

For many of you, maintaining a healthy balance between your role as a massage therapist and your home life is a real challenge for this year. Whilst working for yourself can be immensely rewarding, it can also be easy to overstretch yourself. Working unsociable hours to fit in with your clients can leave you with little time for yourself.


Robert Finlayson comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019

Using an app like ATracker for iPhones or TimeTune for Android can help you see how you split your time between work, socialising and self-care when you aren’t doing the usual 9-5.

Another concern we saw, that comes into this category, is the challenge of taking home the stresses of our clients.


Rebecca Chisholm comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019


Many clients open up to their massage therapists as part of the relaxing nature of the treatment. Many find a quick vent of their problems a great method of letting go and winding down for their massage. Lend a caring ear but if you are finding that you have client’s who are leaning on you for more emotional support than usual you may be turning into their counsellor rather than their massage therapist. It is important not to take on this role for many reasons, including protecting your own well being. Find out more, including some tips on how to avoid crossing this line in our post about client-therapist boundaries in the blog section of our website.

At the end of the day, it is worth remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Setting up your own massage therapy business is a long but rewarding journey! We loved the response we received from Anna. a great reminder that it is fantastic to have big goals, but important to always take time to celebrate your successes and to be kind to yourself, remember big things start small!

Anne Power comment from massage therapist survey about the biggest business challenges of 2019

Want to be part of our next survey? Sign up to our mailing list in the box below. 

Can you see the biggest challenge you are facing right now in your massage therapy business in this list? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!  

Samantha Jenkins
Samantha Jenkins


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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!