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Selecting the Right Massage Oils for Your Therapies

by Lisa Rose December 04, 2016

Selecting the Right Massage Oils for Your Therapies


When shopping for massage oil things can get a little confusing. There are so many to choose from, and it can be tough to know where to start. Most courses will tell you the basics about oils and let you experiment with one or two, comparing them to lotions, creams and sometimes even powders; it seems to remain the case, though, that oils are the preference with most therapists/ Many will have a stand by option such as a lotion for clients who request it, perhaps because they have allergies to certain oils and don’t want to take their chances. It can be a good move to stock a small selection of different types of oil, but this can be a little trickier for mobile therapists on the move a lot who don’t want the hassle of carrying unnecessary bulk or weight around with them.

Whether you choose to stock one, three or even five, it is still important to know the differences between and benefits of each one. If you’re offering clients a selection, they may well ask you questions that you aren’t able to answer otherwise. Most oil suppliers will offer nut and seed based oils, as well as olive oils. Vegans – and anyone who is concerned with animal welfare for that matter – might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that some oils on offer are made of animal products. One example is emu oil, which is derived from the adipose tissue of certain types of emu, namely the flightless Australian Dromaius Novaehollandiae. There are a surprising amount of questionable animal products in many high street beauty products, and most people are blissfully unaware of them. Lanolin is a good example, and although its commercial description is not going to give away the basic facts, it’s really just grease taken from the hair of sheep. Personally (and I would guess that I’m not alone in this) I wouldn’t want to smear anything of the sort onto my body.

Ethics aside, there are scented or unscented creams, solids and liquids, some medicated, some not; there are carrier oils, essential oils… most of which are perfectly useful and acceptable products to use in massage therapy, but one of them alone is not necessarily going to suit every eventuality. To ensure you get the best oil to complement your particular type of massage therapy, take into consideration the following factors:

Know the oil’s consistency

The more dense, heavy oils like olive oil are best suited to lighter massages such as Swedish or relaxing massages. This is because the absorption rate into the skin is much slower than some other oils. They work well with sweeping, repetitive movements and mean that you don’t have to lubricate repeatedly, interrupting the massage. Lighter oils like grape seed (as well as some creams) are ideal when your massage is likely to be a much heavier one, like deep tissue massage therapy. Such oils are absorbed into the skin much faster; the result of this is that the therapist has more control and can apply the necessary pressure without slipping. Some medicated massage oils have been infused with menthol, arnica, or other extracts so that pain and inflammation is reduced. This can increase the efficiency of your massage when treating sports injuries.

Consider the clients’ skin types


Some of your massage clients will like the aromas and benefits associated with scented massage oils, but this may well turn off others completely. Such strong smelling oils are certainly a little more risky - some clients could be either allergic or sensitive to strong fragrances so for professional use it is wise to choose something scent-free. You can always mix oils according to individual preferences if you have been trained to do so. It is always sensible to be cautious with essential oils – good courses will instruct on this so that students are aware of the dangers and prohibitions of working with essential oils unqualified. Aromatherapy practitioners should be fully trained in all essential oils uses and will carry out in-depth consultations with clients in order to avoid potential contraindications caused by mixing the wrong oils – or balance of oils – together.


Consult properly and avoid activating allergies

It wouldn’t be good practice if we didn’t check out our clients’ contraindications. Nut allergies are common (as are allergies to some flower extracts). If your client has had a history of nut allergies, you should be steering well clear of almond oil.  It would be wise to make sure that you have some form of hypoallergenic oil in your kit for those times when a client with skin sensitivity books in. For these people, it is better to avoid medicated oils. If the client has irritated skin then certain oils such as the light and relatively scent-free jojoba (or vitamin E, which is much heavier) may be good for calming irritations; however, dependent on the mix ration with other oils, these can dry up quickly so they should be mixed carefully with longer-lasting oils.

Consider your client’s onward plans

Using heavy oils that transfer to the clothes and end up in the client’s hairline aren’t necessarily going to be the best choice if they’ve said they’re going back to work that afternoon, for example. If you offer showering facilities it shouldn’t be a problem, but checking with the client will show them that you are concerned with the smaller details.  

What is your favourite go-to oil, and do you keep (or carry) a selection at all times? Here at Massage Warehouse we feel that keeping oils simple is best, or using professionally pre-mixed oils that have been tried, tested and reviewed by peers so that you can trust their efficacy. There are some lovely combinations on the market. We’d like to hear about which ones work for you!

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!