Tales from the Table is written by Andrew Stevenson - Sports and Holistic Massage and Reflexology Practitioner. In this edition we share a story of a blushing bride and a mistake that leaves a mobile massage therapist in the most awkward of situations!
I have never been a big fan of being a mobile massage therapist. I think it stems from when I was very young and my father owned a company that fitted window blinds. I can remember walking into a client's house carrying my Dad’s tool box and was welcomed with the words “if you break anything you will pay for it”. Those words have always stuck in my brain and carrying bags and a table into someone's home still to this day fills me with dread.I tend to pick and choose my clients now but when I was just starting out in the massage industry like most of us a booking was a booking and you would just take it to get known and to bring in a little money.
I had received a telephone call from a lady who’s daughter was getting married in a couple of weeks and was stressed out by the upcoming event and she thought a nice relaxing massage would help. The mother of the bride also wanted a massage so I booked both of them into the clinic. Both massage treatments went very well and on the follow up call the next day the mother told me that her daughter felt very relaxed and had had the best night’s sleep in weeks I have to admit I was feeling very proud of myself as the young lady who was getting married was just a bundle of nerves even though the wedding was two weeks away.
I must point out at this time I was only working part time as a massage therapist and still playing semi professional football. Like all goalkeepers I was loud and full of self confidence. It was a long time ago before the days of mobile phones, and when I got home from work one night a couple of weeks after seeing these clients my answer phone was flashing. So with pen and paper in hand I pressed play.
The message was a frantic message from the mother almost in tears talking about the daughter and what a state she was in with the wedding at the weekend. She could not sleep. She was feeling sick with nerves and she was crying all the time. Could I please do something to help?
I telephoned the mother straight back and told her I could help but unfortunately could only do Friday evening and that the clinic I rented doesn't not have any availability so it would need to be a home visit. She agreed and gave me the address and we arranged the time.
I turned up and rang the doorbell and the bride's father answered the door. I introduced myself. “ Hi I am Andrew the massage therapist” and shook his hand. He took me into the lounge and said you can set your things up in here. The place was like a show home with pottery and glass ornaments everywhere. The mother entered the room and told me what a state her daughter was in and how stressed she was about the big day tomorrow. She just wanted it to be the best day of her daughter's life.
I set up my table and equipment and in came the mother and started lighting candles around the room. I explained there would be no need for those as the lights would be on and she then said well all this stress has given her a headache and the bright light is hurting her eyes. The mother then said she is in her bedroom. I will go and fetch her, walking out. She turned off the lights, leaving me standing in a candle lit room with soft music playing from my tape recorder and the light reflecting off all of the ornaments and to be honest me not feeling very comfortable.
They both entered the room and sat on the settee while I went through my pretreatment questions which is extremely difficult by candle light! The bride then asked if her mother could stay during the treatment. As I felt uncomfortable in this environment I was quite pleased and agreed. She got on to the bed and I started the treatment. A full body relaxation massage.
I went through my routine starting with the client in prone position and starting at the feet and working my way up the body taking my time using gentle but firm relaxing movements. I could feel her starting to relax to my touch and kept the talking to a minimum.After completing her back I turned her into the supine position and worked her front. Now although I had been trained in facial massage it was not something I would normally do but I thought to myself on this occasion I would, so I proceeded to finish off with this.I asked her how she felt and she replied “fantastic my headache has gone and I feel very relaxed and tired and sleepy”. I was very pleased with myself.
I asked the mother if she would not mind fetching her daughter a glass of water as she lay there on the massage couch. I had my back towards the client to allow her to get off the bed and put her dressing gown back on when the mother walked in and turned on the light.The mother screamed. The glass of water hit the floor. The father ran in from the kitchen to find out what the noise was and stopped dead in his tracks. I turned around to look at the bride and I was speechless and stunned.
It looked at first glance like her skin was peeling off or she was suffering with an extreme case of Vitiligo. She threw off the dressing gown and her whole body was like a patchwork quilt. She looked like she had tiger stripes.
She looked down at herself and just burst into tears and ran out of the room upstairs. The mother was shouting at me, the father was threatening to separate my body parts from each other. It was now 20:30 the night before her wedding. What was I going to do?
I started to pack up my stuff and saw my hands were orange. What I had failed to notice in the dim candle light was that the bride had used fake tan and that the massage oil had removed it. I turned to the father and said don’t worry I can sort this out. Without really having a clue how.
Then it dawned on me one of the rooms I was renting was in a beauty salon and I had known the owner for years. I asked to borrow their phone and called my friend but got no answer.
Now I knew she had a young child and she had mentioned she un plugs the phone in the evening. I said to the father I am just going to pop and see a friend who can help me. He replied you are not going anywhere mate. The wailing noises were still coming down from upstairs.
I explained about my friend and he finally agreed but on the condition I left my stuff there and he accompanied me. I think he thought I was going to do a runner and to be honest it had crossed my mind.We arrived at my friends and there were no lights on at all. I tapped on the widow. No response. I tapped again. No response. I thought “sod this” and banged on the door. No response. The father was just getting more angry.
Things were now starting to look very desperate for me.
I said to him let's get back in the car and I drove around to her brother's house who I played football with. I knocked on the door and he answered. I asked have you seen Jules she is not at home. He replied she is staying at Mum’s tonight so I told him I really needed her help and could he phone her.
Why? He asked. So I briefly explained what had happened. He just burst out laughing, which did not help the situation at all. We went in and he phoned and got Jules on the phone. She agreed to help and asked me to pick her so she could see what could be done. So with the bride's father, me and Jules in the car we returned to the house.
He took Jules upstairs and I quickly started packing up the rest of my gear and getting it into the car. A while later they came down stairs. Jules said we can sort this out in the morning. I have told them what they need to do tonight. I have booked them all in for a tanning and as a way of an apology that you will pay for their hair and make up as well. We finally left at 10pm. My one hour relaxation massage had turned into a four hour horror show that had cost me money.
All the way back she just kept looking at me and giggling as she had never seen me in such a flustered state before. I asked her not to tell anyone about this as I was scared it could ruin my reputation to which she agreed. Jules was good to her word and sorted out the bride and her mother who surprisingly were very complimentary about my massage skills. The big day went off without a hitch and both the bride and her mother looked fantastic.
Saturday I arrived at my football match and saw Jules' brother who just smiled but did not say a word about the previous night. I played the game and we won so I was back to my usual self and we all went bouncing into the changing room after the game. As I walked into the communal shower I was attacked by bottles of fake tan. He had told the whole team.
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Tales from the Table is written by Andrew Stevenson - Sports and Holistic Massage and Reflexology Practitioner (Husband, Dad, Granddad, Chief cook and Bottle Washer)
I started my working life as an Engineer in the armed forces and I have spent many years participating in a wide range of sports at high levels both locally, nationally and internationally. My body was always in good condition and everyone called me “Peter Pan” as I was always up for a new challenge. However as my age increased so did the injuries, the severity and the recovery times. It was recommended by a friend that I try reflexology and massage to be honest I was very sceptical to point where I said “if jabbing things in your feet makes you better I will just walk around outside on the gravel with no shoes on and save myself a few quid”
My life changed in my 30’s when I had a particularly bad back injury and was given a choice to give up playing sport (Football as a goalkeeper) or give up walking. Having two young children at the time I can still remember my wife’s words "I can’t push the children around in the pushchair and you in a wheelchair so no more football"
At that point I thought my life was over and the world was going to end.
So I tried both reflexology and going for a massage. The older one amongst us will remember the old advert at Christmas for Remington shavers. “I was so impressed I bought the company”. I found the benefits astonishing not only to my physical wellbeing but also my mental wellbeing so in 2005 I qualified as a reflexologist and massage therapist through the AoR (Association of Reflexologists) and started my journey of helping others, working with clients, local sports teams and professional athletes.
Since qualifying as a therapist I have become a qualified football coach, manager, and club “physio” only retiring from the game in 2020. I have driven rally cars, played cricket and still play golf and compete at both field and target archery. My experiences have taught me first hand to always remember the body is just like any other piece of machinery - if it is not properly maintained then it will fail!
You can follow Andrew on Twitter here!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.