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The 5 Simple Steps To Choosing Your Massage Table

So you now have a migraine from wading through 30 different massage tables, 5 different websites and god knows how many guides and articles!!

And you still can't decide which massage table is best for you!!

Well, fret no more. Answer these few simple questions to help you narrow down the selection.


1) Do you need a lifting back rest on your massage table?

    This is the first and most important question to ask yourself. Portable massage tables either have 3 sections or 2 sections. On the 3 section massage tables, the third section raises up as a back support so clients can be seated for all or some of the treatment, instead of remaining flat. The back rest can be handy for certain treatments like reflexology, acupuncture, head massage, sports leg treatments, beauty treatments and when you want to prop clients up at the end of the treatment to let them catch themselves before getting up of the table.
    Back rests are great, unless you need to carry the massage table to mobile treatments. This is because the 2 hinge supports that hold a back rest up normally weight around 3kg. 3kg on it's own isn't much but when it accounts for 20-25% of the entire weight of the massage table then it makes a massive difference! If you are in doubt or do not know, then you probably do not need a back rest.
    If you won't be doing any mobile work and your treatment room will be fixed, then by all means get a massage table with a back rest, even if you don't need one. If you like a certain treatment table but it has a backrest you may never use, go ahead and choose it. You may even take on some additional therapists in the future where it may come in handy.
    We normally advise mobile therapists and those therapists in doubt to choose a table without a lifting back rest. For some mobile therapists, a lifting back rest is essential. In these cases, there are 3 solutions or workarounds to solve the problem.

    a) Add a Wedge Back Rest Cushion to lay on top of your lightweight massage table:
    If a mobile therapist has 10 mobile treatments in a week and they know that for maybe 3-4 of the treatments, the client would benefit from being raised for some or all of the treatment. Instead of the therapist having to buy a table with a lifting back rest and carry it to all 10 treatments, the therapist can buy a very nice lightweight massage table such as the Porta-lite Delta I or II and carry that to all 10 treatments. Then for the 3-4 treatments where the therapist needs a back rest, they can bring an also very lightweight wedge back rest cushion to just those 3-4 treatments. This saves the therapist carrying a heavier massage table to the other 6-7 treatments that do not require it. It saves a lot of stress on the body.

    b) Add a massage table Transporter/Cart:
    If you are a mobile therapist and you decide to choose a massage table with a lifting back rest you can make life a lot easier by also getting a massage table cart. You can wheel the table alongside you and use easily on public transport. A lot of our customers still buy this solution even when they have the lightest portable tables as it simply makes life easier. Watch the video to get an idea of how it helps:

    2) How often will you be carrying the massage table to treatments in client's homes?

        Once you have ruled out the back rest option above, you have narrowed the selection of massage tables available to you by around 50%. Good Job!!! So you have less to choose from which should alleviate that migraine a little!!  Next decision is the carrying weight.  If you will be carrying the table a lot we advise you to get the carrying weight down to a minimum. We consider a table to be mobile if it is under 14kg. Anything over that and you will find it more difficult to carry. We highly recommend the Porta-lite Delta I or II. They are superb massage tables with the highest quality components and they are by far the lowest weight of any professional table on the market. Aluminium tables are a little harder to manufacture than wooden massage tables so the lower the price of the table the lower the build quality. If you are on a budget the Advantage I table is also very light but nowhere near the quality of the Porta-lite Delta models.

        If you decided to stick with a lifting back rest, the Earthworks Perform is the lightest full dimension table on the market with a back rest.  We recommend combining this with a wheeled transport solution for mobile treatments.

        If you will not be mobile then ignore the weight of the massage table and go with whatever table's features suit you best or what you like the look of.


        3) How tall are you?

        To recap, you have now decided on a lifting back rest or not and have decided on what carrying weight the table should be. Now you should choose the width of the table based on your height and the size of the clients you work with.

        Our staff here, who are all therapists or have been in the past, range in height from 5'2" to 6'4". We've been helping customers choose the most suitable massage table for their needs since 1999. Based on the above, all our standard massage tables will fit anyone in the height range 5'2"-6'4". Outside of this we need to offer more unique advice and we have stocked some very low height massage tables for shorter therapists and for therapists taller than 6'4" most of our tables will still suit but we need you to take some body measurements to make sure.

        For therapists 5'5" to 6'2", as a general rule of thumb you should go for a 28 inch wide table. Most can even go for a 30 inch wide table if desired.

        Exceptions to choosing a 28 or 30 inch wide table:

        For therapists under 5'5", you can choose any table as long as you are confident your posture is good enough to lean over the table. However, some therapists under 5'5" might like to choose a 25 inch width model. They are easier to lean over and also when carried on your shoulder take up a few inches less in length.

        For therapists under 5'2", you can choose any table as long as you are confident your posture is good enough to lean over the table with the client on it but you may wish to consider either a narrow table (25 inches or under) or a lower height massage table. We have had therapist under 5'2" buy the Porta-lite Delta II 30 inch width as they wanted to offer their clients greater comfort but they were sure of their posture and have previously been using wider tables. But most shorter therapist do definitely choose a 25 inch wide table or go for the smaller and lower tables such as the Porta-lite Mini and Low height table.

        If you are in a situation where you either have posture or back pain problems or you are short and need to choose a narrow width table but are disappointed because you would like to offer you clients a normal to wide size table for their comfort then we have a solution for that. We have a number of models that are hour glass shaped. They offer the client the width in the shoulder and feet area where it is most needed but the table tapers in the middle where you do most of your work. The hardest part of the body to lean over for you as a therapist if the lower back and thoracic area. The table is narrower in this area. It doesn't affect the client, as they mostly need the width in the shoulder and arm area. This design has been a lifesaver for many of our customers and provides the perfect solution for many therapist stuck in between categories.


        4) What body size is your client base?

        I think it is always best, for client comfort, to choose as wide a table as possible. However, it sometimes isn't possible when the carrying weight is important or when the therapist is short and/or has back problems.

        Over the years I have spoken to hundreds of thousands of therapists. A lot of female therapists commonly have a mostly female client base and therefore when they are on the fence between choosing the width of the table, they can often get away choosing a narrow table. But many therapists treat the general population as a whole and we come in all shapes and sizes. I have regular massage treatments and the therapist comes to my home where I already have a 30 inch Porta-lite Delta II and the extra width is very nice for me. But I went to Cardiff for some acupuncture recently to a new therapist. He had a 25 inch bed and I felt so uncomfortable. I admit acupuncture isn't supposed to be a relaxing treatment as such but I should at leas be able to relax! I was on the bed for an hour and my shoulders and arms were tense because I had to keep them in place, as the bed was not wide enough for me. I would never go back to him as a result. The right sized bed and the right level of comfort can keep your clients coming back for more.

        The width of the bed and the resulting comfort provided to your client is so important so please try and go for the widest bed possible but I appreciate some therapists simply cannot!

        5) What is your budget?

          Let's ignore massage tables for a second! Pretend you are going to buy a new sofa for your living room. You want it to be comfortable to relax on and you want it to last a long time. You can go and buy a cheap sofa for £200-£300 where the upholstery feels plasticky and the foam squashes easily. 6 months down the line the cushions have a permanent bum imprint because of the low density foam and instead of being fluffy and robust, the cushions are looking a bit bent and squashed. The arm rest is starting to look worn and you hear creaks here and there when you move around. Or you can go and buy a £1,000+ sofa with real or high end PU leather, high density foam that will last a lifetime and be easier to clean and maintain. Trends and decoration aside, you would probably end up replacing the cheaper couch many times over, possibly costing you equal or more over the same period but the experience during all that time would have been far less comfortable. 

          Anyone can give and receive a massage on any table no matter what the cost. But the experience for both you and the client will definitely be very different across price and quality levels. The price of a massage table accounts for every single detail from the quality of the screws and hinges used all the way to the quality of the wood/aluminium, foam and upholstery. Also the built quality i.e. the time taken and how skilfully the table is put together is so so important.

          Like everything in life, the higher the price, the better the quality. If you are a professional therapist, do yourself and your clients a favour and get the best table you can afford. 

          One of my favourite quotes it, "Measure twice, cut once". Applying this to your massage table investment, know what you want/need and what will serve your clients best, get the right advice and your massage table should last you and your business for years to come.


          Check out the Decision Tree Diagram which narrows the selection for you based on your answers above.

          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!