Posted on

Self-Care for Massage Therapists: Preparing for the Game of Treatment

Printer friendly version of Self-Car for Massage Therapists: Preparing for the Game of Treatment

By: David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

While massage therapists are not professional athletics like Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods or the William sisters there are a few similarities we should examine and learn from. Professional athletes consistently perform certain actions that helped ensure their success. Massage Therapists can apply many of the same philosophies and actions to help their success. Unlike professional athletes that have contracts that pay them even when they are injured or sick, the income of a massage therapist is often directly related to the number of treatments they are performing. This article will review some of the similarities between these two groups and ways massage therapists can protect themselves while treating their clients.

Physical Demands:

Professional athletics prepare their physical bodies to avoid injuries while executing their skill in a particular sport. They train regularly since they make their living competing on the field, the court or in the pool and cannot afford to be sidelined since future competitions and rankings depend their current performance. Similarly, massage therapists require their physical bodies at high levels in the treatment room, doing outcalls or performing chair massage. Therapists are also being “ranked” by their clients on whether to reschedule, the amount of the tip, or to refer family, friends and co-workers.

Many sporting events place physical demands on the players for 30 to 90 minutes a game. Likewise, the length of a typical massage therapy session is 30-90 minutes. The physical demands on the therapist can be enormous depending on the client’s size, techniques being integrated, room temperature, flooring type, table height, and other factors.


Michael Phelps competed in 17 races during the 2008 Olympics winning 8 gold medals, injury free. Do you think he integrated self-care techniques like: stretching, resting, eating nutritious foods, working-out and massage therapy? Many massage therapists perform seventeen plus treatments every few days with little to no self-care. Massage therapists must train and maintain their bodies to avoid injuries and be prepared for the physical demands needed in the treatment room. Care for your body by:

o      Sleeping enough so your mind and body are well rested.

o      Stretch daily to maintain flexibility, good posture and avoid injuries.

o      Workout regularly to have the strength and endurance to perform therapy. Yoga is a great workout that includes flexibility.

o      Drink plenty of water.

o      Eat nutritious foods.

o      Receive massage regularly

Protect your Body:

Athletes wear special equipment to protect their bodies like: helmets, padding, eye goggles, gloves or support braces on their knees, ankle and elbows. The equipment gives them an edge and allows them to work smarter not harder while avoiding injury. Here are a few tips for protecting your body:

o      Wear the proper shoes to avoid pain in the feet, knees, back and neck. Would you expect a pro sports athlete to wear dress shoes for competition?

o      Adjust your table height for the size of the client and techniques being integrated. You are setting yourself up for injury if your table is not set ergonomically correct for the job being performed. It will be impossible to use proper body mechanics, if your table height is too high or too low.

o      Use proper body mechanic. This is the easiest way to avoid injury and conserve your energy.

o      Sit in a chair or ball when working on a client’s neck or feet, to give your body a break.

o      Use pressure bars, rollers and other devices once you are trained and proficient in there safe use.

Collecting the Data and Facts:

Competitive athletes collect any data possible by reading articles or reviewing video clips of prior competitions to identify patterns and design counterstrategies. Here are a few ways to learn more about your clients, their conditions and how to design customized treatment plans:

o      Gather information by having the client complete intake forms. This process also helps the client get clear on the chronological order that this condition has progressed and recall the types of treatments and their effectiveness to date. Then you can ask for clarification of what they have written

o      Identify patterns by taking postural analysis photos. Many cell photos have cameras built in to them, making it easy to take postural analysis photos. Review Trigger Point or other charts that determine the possible origins of their condition.

o      Design a customized treatment plan to address their condition with in information gathered from the intake forms, postural analysis photos, range-of-motion, discussion with the client, trigger point findings, etc.

o    Educate your client during and after the session. Again, postural analysis photos show how their poor posture is causing stress on various muscles, joints and ligaments of their body. You can also use the photos to show postural improvements over time. I also use a wet erase marker to circle all of their Trigger Point patterns on the charts so they better understand what I am doing and the goals we are trying to achieve.

The Fundamentals:

The top athletes in any field will tell you they consistently practice and apply the basic fundamentals of their craft. They also have a coach on staff to ensure they are applying the fundamentals. You can easily have a coach with you everyday by integrating the following:

o      Watching DVD programs over and over will help reinforce the information and is similar to being in a seminar.

o      Review manuals and handouts adding special notes. Some programs have manuals that correspond to the DVD programs and cross-reference other products like charts of that same system. This helps you “connect the dots” and integrate the information.

o      Receive massage regularly from different therapists. This helps you reevaluate your approach and “tableside” manner.

o      Read articles in trade journals and online.

o      Take seminars to improve your skills.

o      Stay connected and interact with your peers.

The bottom line is massage therapists can protect their bodies and income by applying the same fundamentals as professional athletes. The key is making certain actions priorities in your life and consistently following through. I encourage you to read all the articles in my “Keeping It Simple” series and hang this article in a place that allows you to review it often as a “coach” to help keep you on target.

David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

David Kent, LMT, NCTMB, is an international presenter, product innovator and writer. His clinic, Muscular Pain Relief Center, is in Deltona, Florida, where he receives referrals from various healthcare providers. David is President and Founder of Kent Health Systems which teaches Human Dissection, Deep Tissue Medical Massage and Practice Building seminars, and has developed a line of products, including the Postural Analysis Grid Chart™, Trigger Point Charts, Personalized Essential Office Forms™, and DVD programs.

Printer friendly version of Self-Car for Massage Therapists: Preparing for the Game of Treatment

Posted on

Taking Action to Improve Your Massage Practice

Download a printable version of this article.

BY: David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

In my May column, I talked about how to empower your clients using simple communication skills. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a clinic, a spa, or as an outcall massage therapist; chances are, you have encountered one or more clients who experience feelings of hopelessness and depression because of their physical pain. Keeping an open dialogue and educating your clients about their bodies, as well as maintaining a positive attitude in the treatment room, is as essential to a client’s well-being as the bodywork itself. Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done—especially when you are in the midst of your own challenges.

As massage therapists, we are often so focused on helping our clients that we neglect our own professional, financial, personal and spiritual lives. So how does one go about creating balance in all of these areas? In this article, I will walk you through five steps that can help you balance and produce positive changes in any area of your life.

If you’ve listened to the news in the last couple of months, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about the economy. Prices for basic goods, services and gas continue to rise, and many of the experts are predicting some tough times ahead. Obviously, some things—like the economy—are outside of our control. And it’s not healthy to expend large amounts of energy over the things that we can’t control. Rather, what we need to do is to focus our efforts on those things in our immediate lives that we can control; then evaluate the challenges and take steps to overcome them.

In addition to running a massage practice, we all perform various juggling acts. I am on the road several weeks a year teaching seminars, as well as running a clinic and continually working to develop new and improve existing products. This doesn’t take into account trying to maintain a social life and my relationships with friends and family. Perhaps you are dealing with similar issues: running a massage practice, trying to devote more time to yourself and your family, and a host of other personal and professional obligations. So, here is rule number one: It’s easier to deal with the stresses of life when you are flexible. There is no doubt that challenges will be constantly thrown your way. Maintaining flexibility and a willingness to adjust your plans will make dealing with these challenges much easier. You can start with the following five steps.

Five Steps to Positive Change

1. Acknowledge that something is out of balance and needs your attention. No one ever improved a situation by looking the other way. No matter how painful, scary or unpleasant the circumstances, it is generally best to face it squarely. 


Professional Challenges. Are you worried about increasing volume or just maintaining your massage practice in this unsettling economy? Try one or more of the following:

  • Visit businesses, gyms, and other health care professionals in your area to establish new referral sources.
  • Offer discounts and incentives for regular and repeat clients.
  • Educate your clients so that they will continue therapy and refer friends, coworkers and family.
  • Learn new treatment techniques so that you can specialize in a particular area of bodywork.
  • Sell products to generate additional income.
  • Check out my article, “Building Raving Fans,” in the April issue of Massage Today for a host of additional practice-building tips.

Financial Challenges. Are you making a decent living or barely making enough money to get by? Hire a financial planner who specializes in small business money management. A financial planner can help you create a reasonable budget that you can stick to; help you plan for retirement and unexpected financial emergencies; and help you get organized so that you can see the bigger financial picture down the line. Can’t afford to pay a financial planner? Consider trading services with one. Or check out your local bookstore—there are plenty of great books that specialize in financial planning and small businesses.

Personal and Spiritual Challenges. You won’t be much good to your clients unless you are taking care of your mental and physical health. Exercise, eat healthier, and take time out to recharge your brain and do the things you enjoy.

2. Ask empowering questions that include a specific positive outcome. Ask yourself what you can do right now to immediately improve your situation.
Professional Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • Are there mentors or other professionals that I can turn to for advice?
  • Are there sources of information online or elsewhere where you I can learn more about how to handle this problem?
  • Should I take some educational seminars?

Financial Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • Do I have a functional accounting system?
  • Do I understand the finances of my business? If not, you may need specialized computer software or other practice-management options, such as customized business forms.
  • Should I take a financial class or tutorial?
  • Should I update my business tools? Perhaps you own charts and tools, but they are outdated. For the price of one or two treatments, you could pay for updated materials that increase your volume. That’s an investment in your business (and a tax write-off).


Personal and Spiritual Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • What do I need to do to stay personally and spiritually balanced?
  • What physical activities do I enjoy doing that work with my schedule?
  • What can I do for myself that has a positive influence on all the areas of my life?

3. Implement change by taking action. The empowering questions you asked in step two will help determine the actions you need to take. There is a saying that goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” The key is to start and then constantly move in the direction of the outcome. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t happen right away. Most things take time to come to fruition—and patience is a virtue.

4. Assess and modify your plan to achieve your outcome. This is where flexibility comes into play. Always prepare for unexpected challenges and try not to get overwhelmed when things don’t go exactly right. Instead, ask yourself, “What did I learn today?” When you hit a wall, start at step one above, and repeat the cycle. Realize that there will be occasional bumps in the road. For more about achieving your desired outcomes, check out my article, “The Power of the List,” in the January 2007 issue of Massage Today.

5. Maintain a positive outlook. It is important to see the silver lining with everything we do. Most people will never completely understand the challenges we face as massages therapists, but you chose this profession because you wanted to help people. No matter what challenges you are facing, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay positive. Take the lemons in your very capable hands, and make lemonade.

Join me again next month for more valuable information, until then stay focused, be positive and enjoy the process.

Download a printable version of this article.