In Thai Massage, we have a saying that the work should be as good for the giver as it is for the receiver. In our Western culture, our whole concept of work often fails to consider the well-being of the giver.
The massage industry reports some alarming statistics regarding occupational injury. A recent Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals survey indicated that more than half of responding therapists reported serious symptoms of occupational pain and stress that had interfered with their ability to work. As a teacher, I often meet students whose hands, arms or shoulders are in pain, and they haven't even begun working professionally.
Proper body mechanics is not a luxury in our profession if we hope to have long careers. Here are some ideas that I hope you will take seriously and implement while you're in massage school. If you are pain-free and relaxed, your touch and your clients will be as well.
1. Proper table height is critical. Set your table low enough that you can use body weight, not muscle strength, for deeper techniques. Get up over your work if you need to.
2. Use a lunge, with one foot well in back, to put your support in your legs and take it out of your back. Think of the warrior pose in yoga. Stack joints when you apply pressure-straighten your arms, relax your shoulders and allow the energy to come from your core and body weight.
3. Martial artists learn how to use core energy rather than strength-this is how you should approach your work. Think of what you do as a whole-body endeavor rather than just your hands. Consider taking a yoga, tai chi- or other martial arts class to learn how to project from your energy center.