Running a massage therapy business can be stressful and exhausting. Even though massage therapists work hard to serve their clients—both physically and mentally—they often forget to take care of themselves. By maintaining good self-care at both work and home, massage therapists can project an image of health and happiness that can attract, impress, and keep massage clients.
Most bodywork professionals have experienced some degree of musculoskeletal pain after treating clients. In a 2006 study, 65% of massage therapists reported feeling post-session pain in the last two years. Typically, bodyworkers feel pain in their thumbs, wrists, shoulders, and lower backs.
Massage therapists who don’t take care of their physical and mental health can experience many ailments, such as:
- Tendinitis – inflammation or irritation of a tendon
- Tenosynovitis – painful inflammation of the sheath that surrounds a tendon
- Overuse syndrome – pain caused by repetitive movement or overuse
- Lower back strain
- High blood pressure
- Poor digestion
- Memory loss
- Difficulty focusing
Don’t let your bodywork practice wear you down. Your body and mind deserve the same quality of care and attention you lavish on your clients. Make self-care a priority today—and every day—with these 11 tips:
1. Mix It Up
Just like those who work at computers all day, massage therapists should take care to avoid repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. You can do this by changing up your approach and techniques. For example, if you often contact your clients’ bodies with your palms and the centers of your wrists, try using the upper or side edges of your palms. You might also try massaging with your elbows or forearms to give your fingers and wrists an occasional break.
2. Protect Your Thumbs
Massage therapists can experience De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, typically at the bases of their thumbs. This condition (usually caused by overuse) happens when tendons adhere to their synovial sheaths, which surround the tendons. To avoid this injury (which could limit your ability to work), give yourself frequent hand massages and stretch your hands and wrists before and after sessions.
3. Maintain a Healthy Schedule
Many new massage therapists make the mistake of overbooking themselves to make a little extra money on high-demand days. However, it is usually more beneficial to conserve your energy—your most precious resource. If you allow your mental and physical condition to suffer by straining hard to make some extra money, you may quickly reach an overwhelm point at which you have no choice but to slow down. Instead, it might be better to give yourself the space and time you need to build a long-lasting bodywork business.
4. Protect Your Neck
If you’re just starting your massage therapy career, you may believe you need to look carefully at your clients’ bodies as you massage them. However, this posture can create great amounts of neck strain. Instead, try looking up or closing your eyes. Trust in your training, knowledge, and sense of touch.
5. Get the Most from Your Break Time
Refresh yourself with mini meditations, breathwork sessions, and other breaks throughout your work day. Try not to fill up your free time between appointments with endless office tasks, organization, and busy work. If you allow yourself the down time you deserve between your obligations, it will likely be easier to approach each appointment with genuine happiness.
6. Give Your Shoulders a Rest
By holding your arms out for long periods of time and creating pressure from your shoulders, you can strain your rotator cuff and deltoid muscles. Instead, engage the core of your body to create the necessary pressure for massage. Try keeping your elbows against your body and letting your body weight flow directly into your forearms and hands.
7. Enjoy the Luxury of Sleeping In
Be sure to get more sleep than you think you need. Massage therapists exert their bodies much more than most professionals, and they often need extra time each night to recover and regenerate. Getting more sleep can help you better manage a vast array of physical and mental stressors and approach each day and appointment refreshed and well-rested.
8. Invest in the Right Table
Investing in an adjustable massage table can greatly improve your endurance. It’s easier to keep your wrists straight and maintain an upright posture when you don’t have to hunch over your clients. Invest in your body and your long-term prospects by choosing a massage table that lets you protect your body and keep your energy for your clients.
9. Drink Water and Eat Healthy Food
Be sure to keep your body fed and hydrated throughout your work day. If you massage three to four clients a day, you’re likely exerting as much as you would during a moderate exercise session. Also, keep healthy snacks available for snacking between sessions. If you allow yourself to get too hungry, your energy level is likely to sink and you’re more likely to indulge in comfort food after work.
10. Get Regular Massages
In addition to giving your body relief from the tensions of a physically demanding job, getting massages with other practitioners allows you to learn from their unique expertise and experience. You can always pick up new techniques and approaches to bodywork, while sharpening your knowledge of basic skills. Your colleagues can also help you identify your tight spots and trace them back to the specific postures and motions that cause them. If you can identify and avoid those postures or motions that cause you tightness or pain, you’re more likely to experience long-term relief.
11. Spend Time with Your Loved Ones
Whether you prefer vacations, staycations, or just day trips, setting aside special time to spend with your family and friends can give you something to look forward to on your busier or more frustrating days. You could sit and enjoy a coffee with a friend, or you might consider more active events such as a game of kickball, an evening at the bowling alley, or a group hike. Make room in your schedule for activities you know you’ll enjoy with people you love to be around.
- 12 self-care tips for massage therapists. (2015). National Holistic Institute. Retrieved from http://www.nhimassageblog.com/2015/02/21/self-care-massage-therapists/
- Gino, F., & Norton, M. (2013). Why rituals work: There are real benefits to rituals, religious or otherwise. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-rituals-work/
- Greene, L., & Goggins, R. (2006). Musculoskeletal symptoms and injuries among experienced massage and bodywork professionals: Survey results. Massage Bodywork. Retrieved from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1130/Musculoskeletal-Symptoms-and-Injuries-Among-Experienced-Massage-and-Bodywork-Professionals
- Self-care: Common injuries and how to prevent them. (2014). American Massage Therapy Association. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/6/Student_Experience_Newsletter/detail/2586
- Self-care techniques. (n.d.). American Massage Therapy Association. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/career_guidance/detail/163?typeId=7
- Self-care tips for massage therapists: You take care of others’ pain, be sure to prevent your own. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/04/24/self-care-tips-massage-therapists-you-take-care-others%E2%80%99-pain-be-sure-prevent