Buyers Guide

STEP 1: Check out this PDF guide for a simple flowchart to help you choose your massage table.
PDF guide - how to choose a massage table




STEP 2: Read the following guide to understand the differences between different massage tables

 

Buyers Guide - How to Choose a Massage Table


Everything you ever wanted to know about choosing the right massage table for you.

Apart from your unique skills as a therapist, the massage table is the most important tool for maintaining your livelihood.

Here are the main things you need to think about when choosing a massage table.

 

The Width of the Massage Table:

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 table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide table. Everyone is different.

Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch table might be more suitable.

If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the 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 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 table possible. By reducing the width of the 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.

A really great 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 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 Height Of the Massage Table

It is also important to consider the length of the table. While perhaps not as crucial as the width, the length of the table can be the difference between a comfortable experience for a client and a slightly uncomfortable one. Fortunately, most tables now come with extra head cradles which gives you plenty of room for clients of all heights.

The normal length of most massage tables is 185cm (73inches), although you can get shorter massage tables at 180cms (71 inches). We sell one shorter model like this called the Advantage II.

If the massage table has an additional adjustable face cradle, it will usually add 20-25cm to the total length, making the table 205-210cms long. The face cradle is removable, so this offers the best option to suit all body sizes.

When choosing the length, the only things you need to consider are:

1. Shorter tables can leave taller clients legs hanging too much off the massage table. However, shorter massage tables are generally lighter as well, which may be important if you are a mobile therapist.
2. Getting a table with a breath hole and an extra face cradle will offer you the maximum flexibility in treating all body sizes.

Adjustable height:

Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a wide 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 almost anybody. 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 table.

The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same 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. Cheaper 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 Weight of the Massage Table

There are two weight measurements to consider when choosing a massage table: the working weight, and the carrying weight.

The working weight of a massage table is the weight you can regularly load onto the table during treatments. The carrying weight is the weight of the table itself, which is a key consideration if you are a mobile therapist.

Massage tables can weigh anywhere between 10 and 21kg. The weight mostly depends on the design, the dimensions and whether wood or aluminium is used for the frame.

If you are a mobile therapist who carries the table a lot, aim to choose a table of 14kg or less. The lighter, the better. If you are a home or clinic based therapist, anything up to 21kg should be fine, as long as you can fold it up, put it away and move it from room to room with ease.

There are 3 ways to make a massage table lighter:

1. Make it out of aluminium instead of wood
2. Make it without a raising back rest because the back rest support mechanism weighs on average 3kg
3. Reduce the dimensions (size) of the table. While reducing the dimensions does reduce the weight, it can also mean that your massage table will be too small for some of your clients to be fully comfortable.

For you as a therapist, the most beneficial choice of these three options is to choose an aluminium table. Then, if you need to keep the weight down even more, go for a flat table that doesn’t have a raising back rest.

Occasionally, a therapist will baulk at the slightly higher price point of aluminium tables over the wooden options. What I always tell these therapists is that the difference in price will never be more than the price of 2-3 treatments, but for that price you get significantly better quality and the protection against hurting yourself carrying a heavier table around.

So although the £100 difference might be more now, over the course of your career the extra cost is negligible. In most cases the higher priced aluminium tables are the highest quality and most comfortable tables on the market. The extra comfort you are providing your patients will pay you back the initial outlay many times over in extra referrals and repeat business.

"But I’m a mobile therapist and need all the extra features such as a raising back rest!"

We’ve talked above about choosing a light table. But if there is a heavier model that you feel suits your needs more than any other lighter model, you can overcome its carrying weight by investing in a massage table trolley cart to wheel your massage table around in.

Another handy work-around is to buy a lightweight table such as the Portalite Delta II which is very easy to carry.
lightweight massage table - portalite detla II


And then also get a wedge bolster which is a bolster used as a portable back rest.

Wedge massage Bolster


The benefit of this set-up comes when you have a small number of treatments that require a raising back rest. So for example, you have 10 treatments in a week and 3 of those require the patient to be raised. You could buy a heavy massage table with a raising backrest and carry it to all ten treatments. Or you can buy the lighter table and bring that to the 7 flat treatments, and then bring along the light wedge bolster to the 3 treatments that require the patient to be upright.

 

Wood or Aluminium?

For some therapists this is an easy choice, as many have a clear preference for the look of wood or aluminium in the treatment room. Speaking to customers over the last 14 years, I know that many therapists prefer the look of wood, but nowadays the aluminium tables have a very sleek and appealing appearance.

Many newly qualified therapists take advice from their tutors who tell them to stay away from metal tables. This is because metal massage tables used to be terrible! They would squeak, rust and were very heavy as they were made of steel. However, many therapists see today's aluminium tables and confuse them with metal.

Great quality aluminium tables are only a recent innovation, only having come onto the market within the last few years. Generally speaking, therapists don’t change a good quality massage table too often, so many are used to using and seeing wooden tables. But that is changing fast, with many therapists now choosing aluminium for the huge weight saving and strength advantage.

Metal massage tables are now quite uncommon, but there are still some cheap ones floating around at the bottom of the market, costing under £100.

There is no difference in quality between a professional grade wooden and aluminium massage table. They will both have the same quality materials (other than the wood or aluminium) and will both have the same build quality.

So choose the table in your price range, which offers you the best features for your practice. Don’t worry too much about it being wood or aluminium. Although aluminium legs are stronger than wood, you will never test the maximum working weight of a professional level table enough to damage the wood. Aluminium's major advantage in the professional range is that it is so light.

A Caveat:

There is, however, a big difference in the quality of entry level aluminium massage tables (£100 - £150) and professional level aluminium massage tables (£220+).

This is because the professional level tables are built using aircraft grade aluminium. Much more time and expense is also put into the build quality. The lower priced aluminum tables use an aluminium composite and have a lower build quality. While they are still sturdy and reliable tables, they are not as strong as their wooden counterparts.

 

Working weight:

The working weight of a table is the amount of weight you can put on the table, which includes the patient’s weight and the weight of the force you put down on their body.

Standard working weights are 450-500lbs.

Keep in mind that the average person will weigh between 120 and 200lbs. Within those limits, it would be difficult to ever test the maximum weight capabilities of a modern massage table.

Working weight implies that the table is being used properly and that the patient's weight is distributed across the whole bed. If, for example, a heavy person was to get on the table with one knee, all their weight would be going down through one small area, which means that the loading is not evenly distributed over the bed. If enough force was applied into one small area there is the potential to strain or break the wood under the foam.

 

Static weight:

To test the strength of the table, a test is done during the design phase of each new table.

2000lbs of weight is dropped onto the massage table to see whether it can withstand that amount of pressure.

I have seen this in person and it is very similar to the crash tests a car manufacturer would put a new model through to ensure its safety for market. All our massage tables have a static weight loading of 2000lbs. Although this is good to know, the working weight is more important for you on a daily basis.

 

Foam thickness:

The foam on your massage table is one of the most important features.

Firstly, the client's level of comfort is naturally very important. A good quality foam with an adequate thickness will not only support each different area of their body evenly, but it will also offer them the comfort needed to relax during a treatment.

Secondly, the long term wear and appearance of your table is affected by the density of the foam. The higher the density, the less air pockets inside the foam. Over time higher density foam will not sag or flatten like lower density foam, which creates a longer life for your massage table.

Cheap massage tables such as those found on eBay are made with the thinnest lowest density foam available on the market, despite the descriptions which always say it is high density. If you are using high density foam, you simply cannot produce tables for such low prices.

Most massage tables on the market have a foam thickness of 5cm, which is adequate for comfortable treatments. Our entry-level tables come with 5cm as standard, and our professional tables come with 6.5cm.

The foam on the professional tables is not only thicker than the other option, but is also higher quality and we call it semi-firm foam. It is more comfortable but also more supportive than lower-priced tables.

 

Upholstery:

PVC vinyl leather is normally found on budget and entry level massage tables - PU vinyl would be too expensive to use and manufacturers are keen to keep the costs down.

PVC is a synthetic leather, similar to what you would find on many imitation leather couches and sofas. It is strong, durable and oil proof. It can be wiped clean very easily.

PU leather is very close in feel and appearance to real leather. It is very soft, feels lovely against the skin and is also very strong. As with PVC, it is oil proof but is more durable and hardwearing.

PU leather will last longer, but other than that I don’t think it matters which one your table has because you won’t have the patient’s bare skin on the table. You will be using couch covers or towels so it doesn’t matter what it feels like. What does matter is the durability and strength over the long term.

 

Cable system:

Also known as a tensor cable support system, this feature provides much more strength and stability to a portable massage table and prevents the table from collapsing. It also prevents the table from rocking forwards or backwards, leading to a much more calm and peaceful treatment for your clients. This stability is very important, so all our portable massage tables have this feature.

 

Price to Quality ratio:

Just like most things in life, the higher the purchasing price, the higher the quality. There are three quality levels of tables on the market no matter what retailer you buy from.

Budget level = Massage tables under £100.
Entry level = Massage tables priced around £100 to £150
Professional Grade = Massage tables priced over £220

Remember that in the UK, 20% from the advertised price goes immediately to VAT (a sales tax). The retailer has to pay for the product, pay for shipping by sea into the UK, pay to store it and then send it via courier to your door. Then the retailer also has the typical overhead costs just like any business - staff, offices and so on.

So you can imagine that once you strip all the above costs out of a £60-£100 massage table, the table itself gets made for very little. Do you really want to invite someone into your professional practice to be treated on a piece of equipment that is made for £20-£30?

At Massage Warehouse we are all therapists, and as such have a minimum quality level we will accept. Anything that rocks or creaks will never make it past our door. Most of our customers hear about us through word of mouth, since we offer the largest range of high-quality tables in the UK at affordable prices.

We stock entry-level tables, which are those priced £100 - £150, and professional grade tables, which start at around £220.

What’s the difference?

The entry-level tables are very good quality for their price, and offer great value for money. They are firm, strong and sturdy. The major difference, however, is that every component on the professional tables - from the screws and hinges to the wood, aluminium, foam and leather - is of much higher quality.

 

Below is a brief overview of the components of a professional massage table:

Wood
Strong, high quality & flawless knot-free wood is chosen for the frame and legs. Each piece is inspected for flaws before production.

Aluminium
Aircraft grade aluminium is used on the aluminium-framed tables. This is the strongest on the market.

Foam
Most retailers on the Internet will say the foam on a table is high density. There is no standard of measuring density and no way for them to be proven wrong. High quality foam costs a lot more to produce, and as a result it drives up the cost of producing a comfortable, high-quality massage table.

It is probably better to use the term "less dense” when accurately describing the foam on lower priced tables. Cheaper tables will have less density, which means there is more air in the foam. It will therefore depress and imprint more easily.

When you lie on a really cheap massage table, at some point during your treatment you will usually start to feel the wood underneath as the air bubbles in the foam get compressed. Many of the cheaper tables on the market only have 4cm foam so you are already behind before a client even gets on the table.

When it comes to foam quality it is best to be guided by price. Top-end retailers who believe in providing the best product and protecting their reputation will use the best foam possible on their massage tables.

You will generally find the professional tables have 6.5cm foam which, along with the better durability and lifespan of the foam, increases client comfort even more.

Upholstery
There are two types of covering used on massage tables. PVC and PU leather. PVC has more of a plastic feeling, while PU is closer in feeling to real leather.

Within each type, there are different levels of quality. There is really cheap plastic feeling PVC and then there is higher quality, more durable PVC.

Just like the foam, there is no international standard for the different grades of both PVC and PU leather. You must be guided by the pricing, the quality level of the brand, and the advice of the retailer you are purchasing from.

At Massage Warehouse, our entry-level tables come with the best and most durable form of PVC faux leather. Our professional tables come with the best quality PU leather. By touch it is very difficult to tell the difference between the PU leather and real leather, and it is very hardwearing and durable.

Again, as with foam, be guided by price and brand reputation, as the top massage table brands only want you to have the best experience. They will provide you a better purchasing experience and a higher quality product that lasts the duration of your career.

 

Which quality level is for you?

Many therapists will get by just fine with entry-level models. Some buy an entry level to start off with and then end up upgrading later on in their careers, in order to offer a more professional and comfortable experience for their clientele.

I often compare it to buying a sofa for your living room. You either buy a very nice and luxurious sofa that will still be in pristine condition 20 years later, or you can buy a cheaper sofa that you may end up replacing every few years. You can sit just fine on them both and they both serve their purpose but one is more comfortable and luxurious than the other.

A professional table should last you your entire career. The therapists who have bought one would normally only ever buy another table if they need a back-up option, or want to switch from mobile to clinic or home therapy and need a different weight for their table.

From the patient's point of view, I often say the massage table experience is similar to getting picked up at the airport! You can arrange a private car service to pick you up, and the ride home will be relaxing and comfortable. Or you can get a taxi and the ride home will be completely unremarkable. They will both get you from A to B, but the experience will be different. It's the same with massage tables - both will do the job, but a professional level table will give you a more luxurious and comfortable experience than an entry level table.

 

COMMON MISTAKES MADE BY CUSTOMERS WHEN CHOOSING A TABLE:

1. Choosing a table with a raising back rest when they don’t really need one making it heavier to carry - this really only applies to mobile therapists.

2. Not noticing the dimensions of the table. Pay attention to whether weight has been reduced by shrinking the other dimensions of the table, as this can directly impact your clients.

3. Trying to save money now on a cheaper massage table, then wanting to upgrade later to offer their patients greater comfort. They end up paying far more as they have bought two tables.

Check out this PDF guide for a simple flowchart to help you choose your massage table.

PDF guide - how to choose a massage table

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!