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Common Buyer Mistakes When Choosing a Massage Table

We've been speaking to and advising customers since 1999. We've done some math recently and in that time we estimate we've spoken to over 200,000 therapists on the phone or via email.

We've heard it all and we have heard the same regrets many times over. A lot of customers come to us after previously buying a massage table elsewhere. They initially tried to save money buying cheaply, but often-times end up buying a second table from us, sometimes only weeks after the first one!

We also have customers who buy from us from the beginning and don't read the product description and need to go through the hassle of exchanging for another model with extra waiting in for couriers etc.

We've compiled the top 5 buyer mistakes we experience so you can avoid making the same mistakes and learn from the customers that have come before you! 

Mistake No.1 - Buying without reading the description fully and not doing enough research.

There is a lot of choice on the market and we fully appreciate how difficult it can be for you when doing your research. It is very hard to tell the differences and quality from a photo online. That is why we have made videos of our massage tables. The video shows the massage table up close and personal. We've also provided as much info as possible in our product descriptions and guides throughout the site.

But sometimes customers are in a hurry. Maybe they are on their way home on public transport and make a purchase from their phone based on the photo alone.

The most common return request is that the customer did not realise the table doesn't have a lifting back rest of vice versa. Table without back rest will have only 2 sections to the couch. And if they have a back rest their will be 3 sections on the couch. We also try to make it easier by showing the back rest in its upright position in the main photo for all the massage tables that do have lifting backrests.

The 2nd most common return is that the table is to heavy for their needs. The customer hasn't done their research across different models and chooses the one they like the look of without comparing the weight. 

How to avoid making this mistake? 

Read all the guides on our website, especially those that are in our learning centre. After reading our Buyers Guide and answering the questions in The 5 Simple Steps To Choosing Your Massage Table you should be armed with enough information to narrow the selection down to 2 or 3 models. Then if still in doubt, email or call to get our expert advice and avail of our Right Choice, First Time Guarantee

Mistake No.2 - Not spending enough to get the table that suits you best.

It is of course in everyones nature to hold on to as much of your hard earned money as possible! We mostly do not want to spend our money. We definitely do not want to spend it unnecessarily! So we often try to get away with spending the minimum amount possible.

However, in the last 1-2 years I have seen an increase in customers who have learnt that it is a false economy buying cheap. Some customers know they simply like the best of things and know it is worth it to them and some customers realise they will actually save in the long run by not having to replace the table and also by earning more from repeat business and referrals by offering the best experience possible to the client.

Don't ask why are some massage tables so high in price, Ask why are some tables so cheap?

Up until around 2005, it was normal for a therapist to pay a minimum of £500+ for their first massage table. Since then a lot of manufacturing for all types of products have moved to Asia and prices have come down a lot. You can now get the same quality massage table for half the price. I often talk to therapists replacing 15 year old tables that they paid £600-£900 for and they are wondering why even the top of the range is now around £300-£400.

Younger, newly qualified therapists I speak to often say why is are some tables so expensive. So we hear both sides of the viewpoint!

Massage tables ranging from £200-£400 are normal priced. But they may look expensive when you see tables on ebay and amazon for £80. So why are these massage tables so cheap?

Let me explain!

We are a specialist retailer. This is all we do and we are very good at it! Like other legitimate businesses, we have to set up a physical location, register for and pay our taxes, pay for staff and a warehouse. Design and maintain a website and provide excellent customer service and after care with extra staff. We have specialist staff who design and make sure our products are high quality and serve our fellow therapists as they should do.

Around 2005 ebay became popular and around 2010 amazon took off. These marketplaces provided an outlet for people to import and sell anything from their bedroom! Look at al the sellers of cheap massage tables on either ebay or amazon. They are not specialists. They also sell other items alongside their massage tables. Anything from rabbit hutches, car tents, power tools and anything else they can turn a quick buck on. They don't have dedicated support and it is often impossible to find a telephone number for them when a problem occurs. They don't actually care about the therapist and future relationships, they want to stack them high and sell them cheap. When choosing the design and components that go on our tables, we choose the best quality available considering the price range. The sellers of cheap tables will do the opposite, they will put the cheapest components on the tables so that their cost is low. They can then sell the massage tables at low prices. 

For some newly qualified therapists, they just don't know the difference. They often have not used a normal priced massage table and as such do not know what the minimum level of quality should be. I guarantee any professional therapist who buys a cheap massage table will end up replacing it within one year and from my experience talking to therapists on the phone, it is usually much quicker.

So what will happen? The most common reports I hear from customers are:

  1. The foam is uncomfortable and thin and it doesn't support the body enough. The client therefore feels the hard wood underneath, or, the foam is kind of ok on arrival but after a few months is squashes so much that the above also happens.
  2. The bed rocks and creaks. For a factory in China to make a table for so cheap, they have to make sure their inputs are minimum. Everything you add to a table adds cost. The build quality is poor, the time spent making the table is minimal, and the way the legs are attached to the frame mean the table rocks and squeaks under pressure.
  3. Metal parts are rusty on the table. Stainless steel screws and hinges cost more than standard ones. Aluminium costs more than steel. The sellers who charge the lower prices cannot afford to put stainless steel or aluminium on the table as it will raise the price.
  4. The head cradle breaks because the rods are made of plastic and the buckles/latches to close the table are flimsy and break either on arrival ot after a few months of use.

Which leads me to the question. Why are there so many secondhand massage tables on eBay, Gumtree and other second hand websites?

It is because so many new therapists make the mistake of buying the cheap model first. They then realise it is terrible and try to sell it off second hand to claw back some of the money. I had a call last week from a lovely therapist froM Belfast. She started off the conversation sounding frustrated! She had spent most of the day going to 3 private addresses to view second hand tables she found on gumtree. She was shocked at the quality. She wanted to know why some of the tables in our store were higher priced. She told me what she wanted and I recommended the Earthworks Touch Plus to her. She rang again the following week to thank me and say how happy she was with it.

Please go look yourself on sites like gumtree and ask yourself, why are there so many second hand massage tables? Are therapists giving up their line of work in droves? :)

How to avoid making this mistake? 

Assuming you know you will be in the career a long time. Look at your massage table as a one time purchase. Buy the best you can now and you'll never have to buy another.

Mistake No.3 - Buying a stop gap table until .....

Thinking I will buy this one to tide me over and get another one later on when i have more funds which often contributes to the increasing number of second hand massage tables because once the therapist uses their new table a few times they realise their mistake and upgrade sooner rather than later. 

How to avoid making this mistake? 

Same solution as mistake No.2 above. Look at your massage table as a one time purchase. Buy the best you can now and you'll never have to buy another. Buying a lower priced table now and then a higher priced later on will work out much more expensive in the long run. And remember, quite often the price difference between the cheap and nasty v the high end and beautiful is possibly 2-3 treatments. 

Mistake No.4 - Buying based on price alone

We have some customers who just want the best quality so they go straight for the massage table that is highest in price. This is particularly often the case with individuals who have a therapist come to their home and buy the massage table themselves or new therapists who a) know the higher the price the higher the quality and b) just want the best quality and think that means they must buy the highest priced option.

The reason we stock so many different different designs of massage tables is because we want to have a solution for everyone (we have over 25 different models!).

Over a certain price point (around £250), the quality, strength and reliability is the same. The same components and materials are used on nearly all the professional range of tables over £250. The reason for price differences beyond £250 is usually down to the difference in design or materials. For example the type of aluminium on the Porta-lite delta is higher in price to manufacture with than both wood and lower grades of aluminium. Also, the end arches where you put your knees under on that model are hand welded and shaped so there is a lot of extra labour. The hourglass shape frame on the Earthworks Touch Plus is put together and shaped by hand. Both the above models are closer to £350. Are they higher in quality that a table between £250 and £300? No, not really. But they have features which cost more to produce.

Once you are up in the professional range of tables, you a customer should not choose your massage table based on price. You should choose based on featured and function. If you need a lightweight yet strong massage table then the Porta-lite Delta range is by far the best. If you need a standard design with a lifting back rest the Earthworks Perform is the best and lightest full dimension table on the market with a backrest. If you want to offer your clients extra shoulder room without jeopardising your posture and reach then the Earthworks Touch Plus, Comfort I and Comfort II are the best models to choose.

How to avoid making this mistake? 

So basically, in the professional price range, choose the table that best suits your requirements. The quality and comfort is almost identical across this range with the highest quality foam, upholstery and components used.


Mistake No.5 - Buying a massage table too small for your clients

This isn't so much a mistake that happens when customers buy from us. Rather, we find customers come to us looking for a second table because they bought a cheaper bed first time. 

The cheaper beds are often very small. The sellers of these beds are not specialists and sell many other non therapy items alongside the massage tables. Across all their products they simply want to buy cheap so they can sell cheap. One way of reducing the cost of the massage table at manufacturing is by reducing the size of the table. Less materials = less cost.

Most of the tables you see on amazon and ebay are around 61cms wide and 180cms long. The foam is also usually 4cms thick and of very low density so you feel the wood underneath, if not straight away, after a few months!Quality issues aside, the therapists who buy these tables often find some of their clients are not comfortable on these narrower and shorter couches. If the client's shoulders are slightly off the sides of the couch they will not be relaxed which will greatly affect the treatment experience and outcome. 

You want the client coming back for more time and time again so make sure you buy the right size bed for both you and your client base.

How to avoid making this mistake? 

Read out buyers guide and understand what size bed suits you best taking the body size of your client base into consideration. Some therapists will have to make compromises and work on their posture better so they can go for wider beds which may not normally be the recommendation for their own height and size. Two good solutions to many of the problems this topic causes are a) the hour glass shaped beds or b) adding side arm rests to the narrow bed.

Mistake No.6 - Buying a massage table and not looking after it

Fortunately, even though it makes the most common 6 mistakes, this is rare and thankfully becoming less common due to education.

A lack of care usually only affects the upholstery on a massage table. PU upholstery is lovely to touch and is the closest thing synthetically to real leather. The PU leather used on our professional massage tables is the same used on high end car seats. It is very strong and durable and should last decades if looked after. I myself bought my first table in 2004 and it is still as good as new.

When USA therapists undergo their training they are taught to buy the most expensive tables with the best quality foam and upholstery. But they are also taught to use 2 couch covers so that they preserve the life of the upholstery and never have to buy another. They have one fitted couch cover that always stays on the table. They then use a 2nd couch cover on top of the first one for every new treatment. Of course the under cover will get washed regularly but not every time like the one that comes in direct content with the client. In the UK we are taught to use 1 couch cover or sometimes just disposable paper roll.

Just using paper roll is the worst idea ever and not only causes your couch to come in contact with oils and perspiration, it means the couch has to be cleaned and wiped down each time and this is where the problem starts to occur.

There are 3 things that cause the upholstery on a couch to deteriorate faster than it is supposed to, none of which need to happen.

  1. Massage oils and mediums that are left on the couch, especially those with chemicals. Many oils and lotions contain chemicals which IMO shouldn't even be going on the clients skin, let alone the massage table upholstery!! Always try to use natural mediums and where possible, organic. The skin is the largest organ of the body and the chemicals are consumed into the body. Try to use 2 layers of couch covers to protect the massage table and if oil does come into contact with the couch, wipe it off as soon after the treatment as possible with warm mild soapy water.
  2. Body perspiration. This is very harsh when left on any type of material. IT is often salty and acidic and if left on any material or upholstery will wear it down faster than it is designed to. Again, try to protect the couch with at least one layer of covering, if not 2 as described above. Paper couch roll tears during treatment and will let body sweat through to the couch. I speak to some customers who don't use any protection at all and have the client directly on the bed which is terrible for hygiene, client comfort and also the longevity of the upholstery.
  3. If the couch is protected properly you should actually never have to clean the upholstery. But if you don't use appropriate covers and protection and you do need to clean the couch it is best to use warm water with a mild soap. Don't use a detergent with chemicals in it and definitely don't use anything that contains alcohol. The alcohol will dry out the upholstery and make it crack over time. Definitely don't use anything like dettol. We recommend a mild soap such as Dr. Bronners.

Even with a lack of care, it will still take many years for the upholstery to deteriorate and if that happens, fortunately there is a solution. You can now buy Pu vinyl covers for most tables that are made of the same upholstery the tables is made of. They are fitted and elasticated so just pop on your couch and make it look as good as new. For some of our customers who practice therapies such as Lomi Lomi where a lot of oil is used directly on the couch we recommend these covers to begin with to protect the original upholstery as these therapists have to use oil directly on the couch.

How to avoid making this mistake? 

Use good quality fitted couch covers during treatments. 2 if possible, 1 which always stays on the couch. use good quality natural based massage mediums and if you do have to clean the couch, use a mild soap with warm water.


Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!

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!