The Changing Face of the Massage Industry

May 15, 2015 0 Comments

With the escalating growth of massage franchises across America, it may seem that the benefits of massage are reaching a larger demographic. At first consideration, this can only be a good thing. But could it perhaps be said that this situation has potential for cheapening the experience for therapists and customers alike?
Sure, it brings the price down and makes massage therapy more accessible to those who may have previously regarded the massage experience as a luxury; an indulgent treat for those with lots of spare cash to throw around. There can’t be too many people who wouldn’t jump at the chance for a good massage on the weekend or after work, to wind down from a stressful day. Treating friends and family to a spa-style day out may suddenly seem more doable. But if you turned up at your local massage franchise – even completely unaware that it was a franchise – to find that you were ushered in, laid on a table and given a hurried, sub-standard massage with cheap products, by a poorly trained ‘therapist’ (one who seemed to be more interested in getting the experience over and done with than making you feel like a valued customer) - wouldn’t you feel cheated, regardless of the cost? 
With an emphasis on keeping costs down to attract franchisees, it is common that therapists are underpaid. The trade-off seems to be that they have job security, and in a time where the economy is less than perfect, job security is a sought-after thing. If it means a pay cut, so be it – but this is likely to be at the expense of staff motivation. Just as in any customer service oriented industry, if the massage therapists are unmotivated, the customers are going to notice. How is a therapist likely to feel if the unique stamp of their independent workplace is no longer something they feel proud to identify with? 
Massage has a reputation for being a treat, and most are aware of the health benefits. It’s hard not to notice the wonderful, relaxing sensations when you’re welcomed into a beautiful spa or treatment room with soft, well-chosen music and high quality, comfortable massage tables suited perfectly to the experience you are seeking. When the time, care, and individuality that the unique therapy rooms are reputed to have is diminished in favour of a ‘cookie-cut’ treatment room with unmotivated staff, you are bound to notice the difference. Nobody wants to feel as if they are there to line the pockets of an unseen big boss. That’s the last thing you expect when you go for a massage. 
In this video, the boss goes undercover to investigate the franchises of her massage business. She doesn’t have any experience of massage therapy herself, but pretends to be a therapist in training so that she can see how the branches are training staff and managing the place. Finding that staff are unhappy with the pay, thus working more than one job, and that customers are being ushered in and out back to back, she appears to want to rethink the business model. 

So far, massage franchise hasn’t become a popular thing in the UK, but like many trends starting in America, it could just be a matter of time. If massage franchise comes to the UK, will therapists jump on the bandwagon and swap the conditions of their usual massage job or business for something potentially more secure but with less focus on the traditional values that the industry is known for? It could attract therapists who never had any previous interest in the industry, but realise they have a chance to get a new job without the effort of long, laborious courses of study. 
The implications for the massage industry could be huge. If the franchises are successful in offering a quality service to customers, this could make life more of a struggle for some of the smaller, independent businesses in the vicinity. Imagining the bigger picture, it could possibly compare to the effect corporate giants like Tesco have on smaller, family-run stores. Owners may be qualified therapists, or they may be business people with more understanding of or concern with profit and loss than knowledge of what combination of attitude, products and training make for a great treatment and bring customer loyalty. 
There is a lot of scope for cutting corners and it unclear how well-monitored or regulated branches would be to ensure that good standards of service were consistently delivered. What are your thoughts? Would franchises be a good or bad thing for the UK?

Would this adversely affect therapists and customers, or make life that bit easier for them? 

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!