Back and neck pain. Two of the most common complaints to come out of modern society, for sure – but there is a plethora of reasons for them. As a massage therapist you’ve undoubtedly had many a conversation hypothesizing with your clients about what the possible cause of their pain is. Usually it isn’t so difficult to narrow it down to something like poor posture, bad pillows or just plain old work stress. But the biggie these days seems omnipresent - I don’t think many would argue with the fact that a large percentage of back and neck complaints these days are a hangover from indulging in a little too much modern technology.
Never before have we had so many gadgets to play with and never before have we been so thoroughly hooked on them. Since the first smart phone crash-landed into the market in 2007, society has been besotted, willing slipping into arguably negative habits in the name of social connection. Gaming obviously still plays a big part in repetitive strain injuries and back pain due to poor posture; both of which are afflictions also suffered by many of the innumerable office workers out there who spend far too much time bent over their keyboards in the name of ‘making ends meet.’
Text neck – the latest name for digitally-induced damage
Massage therapists’ books have never been more full of appointments than they are in 2015, which is unlikely to be something we feel the need to complain about. However we are generally compassionate beings, especially given the aches and pains our own jobs generate for us – and as our customers tend to view us as healers, attributing us with varying degrees of supposed authority in the realm of physical conditions, aches and pains. As a result we are often required to engage in a certain level of conjecture about their conditions – and who wants to disappoint them? It certainly doesn’t hurt business to be knowledgeable about your clients’ aches and pains, as it stands to reason that they will have more trust in you if you know what you are talking about. With this is mind I present the latest of the technologically triggered traumas… known as ‘text neck.’
It sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is kind of silly. It’s a cringe-worthy condition highlighting exactly how obsessed we are in the digital age. Nonetheless, it’s fast becoming a common condition and massage therapists the world over will be treating it whether they can give it a name or not. Using a mobile phone is generally bad for us, it’s not hard to work that out. If it’s not for the microwaves it emits frying our brains, it’s the muscular strain we endure while clamping them to our ears. On top of this, we are leaning forward, hunched over our phones tapping out messages while our necks and shoulders are tasked with bearing the substantial weight of our heads. This position is entirely unnatural and is putting intense pressure on both our spines and muscles – if you imagine how much time spent this way accumulates over the course of a week, it may well appear to be as disturbing as it should be.
Massage therapist to the rescue
Most people don’t give it a second thought until their shoulders start seizing up and the headaches occur. That will be about when your treatment room phone will start to ring. Clients may not realize that wonderful and relief-inducing as our treatments may be, we are merely a temporary fix. They may not have considered the possibility of losing the natural curve in their spine over time, for example; or general degeneration with expensive and painful future consequences. It’s not rocket science, but it is something that seems to escape most peoples’ attention until damage is already manifesting. This is where we, the massage therapists, can make ourselves useful. Of course we can highlight the issue, speculate with customers or remind them of the dangers in their every day habits. But we could take it one step further even. It isn’t unthinkable to put this in your marketing materials, is it? ‘Text Neck’ is fast becoming the latest label on the street, so you can demonstrate that you’re in the know and of course that you’re better placed than most to be of assistance. People who otherwise may not have given it a second thought will thank you for it. After all, you are offering preventative treatment, relief and your sound advice all at once, so it seems like a win-win situation.
Text neck may not seem like a big thing in the big picture, but we know all too well the misery that back, neck and shoulder pain causes; it shouldn’t be underestimated. How often do you update your marketing materials to bring in new business? Do you actively research new conditions and buzz words to remain current? We would be interested to know what techniques you use for addressing such issues and whether you get more business from it and good client feedback.
We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders to share key tips for massage therapists to help their massage therapy businesses navigate the changes in our industry brought about by Covid-19 and come back stronger in 2021!
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.