Self Care for Massage Therapists
Like most of you, I love being a massage therapist but I am acutely aware of the ways this work can potentially impact our health and well being. If we are not careful it can limit the longevity of the career we are so passionate about. Injuries arising from poor posture or poor technique and over use, are extremely common, and account for the largest reason why people leave the industry. Thankfully massage trainings today focus heavily on ways to minimise this. I have spoken to many physios and MTs in the 20 years since I first trained and have gleaned some insight into ways to stay healthy in my work, and the online world is also full of informative advice.
CORRECT POSTURE AND TECHNIQUE: Massage schools place far more emphasis on this than they used to, and for good reason. Even if we have been taught the correct ways it is easy to slip into bad habits. Stay mindful of proper technique and posture, and consider doing regular CPD courses as refreshers.
HANDS FREE: There are many excellent hands free techniques being taught now, especially on deep tissue courses which allow you to work with greater pressure and for longer without risk of self injury. Also, consider diversifying the types of massage you offer by undertaking new trainings. Hawaiian Lomi Lomi for instance offers a break from the physical pressures commonly associated with conventional massage.
BURN OUT: It is important to understand our own limitations and listen to our bodies. It is hard to turn clients away but if we pile on greater and greater workloads for ourselves our focus is more likely to suffer. This can result in poor posture and technique and a lack of connection to our clients. It is important to learn to recognise what our optimum number of clients is for us per day. Allow sufficient time between appointments, take regular breaks, keep hydrated, and don't be tempted to skip lunch!
BOUNDARIES: It is important to hold and maintain boundaries and only work within the parameters we know and feel comfortable with. As we know, people come for massage for numerous reasons. Some may see you as a councellor and as someone they can divulge their psychological and emotional narratives to. While it is important to offer a listening presence, this can be draining if we are not sufficiently resourced. Others may come with a hidden agenda which later manifests in coercive attempts to get you to work or engage with them in ways that are beyond your levels of expertise, comfort or even decency. Understand your boundaries and confidently state them when necessary.
SELF CARE: The nature of our work puts particular strain on the muscles involving the wrists and hands. There are some great ways to quickly and simply stretch these areas before and after seeing clients. Consider also doing isometric exercises to safely assist in the strengthening and repair of tired or damaged muscles. There are many fantastic resources on the internet that we can turn to for information and advice with this. I particularly like Massage Sloth who has his own YouTube channel.
AND FINALLY: Get regular treatments for yourself! This is something I don't do enough even though I'm constantly preaching the benefits of massage to clients! As well as the positive effects on the mind and body it can be a way to learn new things, and reconnect with why we do what we do. There are many well-aired pros and cons about exchanging or trading with other masseurs but it can be a great way to share experiences, and means we don't simply exist in an isolated bubble. In the spirit of community, how about we reach out to each other here on Guysway to arrange meet ups and exchanges?