Self-care for Massage Therapists

Like any profession, the day to day cycle of helping clients with expert massage therapy can take a toll on massage therapists. Since our hands, forearms and elbows are primary tools, those tend to be the trouble spots.

If you’re not a therapist, you might be surprised to learn that during your year+ school time, we learn proper form and body mechanics that allow us to work “smarter” (not harder) and protect ourselves from injury. By the time we’re through with more than 700 hours of class, internships, and other practice, we’ve built up the stamina to do a full day’s work with no problem.

Common issues

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 80,000 massage therapists in the US and more than half of injuries suffered by those massage therapists were sprains/strains, and more than half of those injuries resulted from worker motion or poor body mechanics–mostly repeated/forceful flexion and overuse.  Well over half the injuries involved upper extremities, predominately the hand and wrist.
Cumulative trauma disorders, that is those caused by repetitive motion whose symptoms build over time, are also fairly common in the massage therapy profession. These disorders, like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, epicondylitis, biceps tendonitis, trigger finger, rotator cuff tendonitis, and thoracic outlet syndrome, are familiar to most therapists who have been in business for several years.
Sometimes these conditions can become debilitating and may represent the need for a break. Rest, icing and other tactics therapists often share as advice to their clients can work for them too.  Most issues go away with time.  Many can be prevented by practicing targeted self-care for massage therapists and paying very close attention to body mechanics during massage sessions.
Self-care for massage therapists in the workplace and at home

Some self-care is common sense, some is thoughtfulness and awareness, but all are useful tips, not just for massage therapists, but for anyone.

Self-care tips when you’re at work:

  • Always watch your body mechanics
  • Check in with yourself at least twice during a session to remind yourself to minimize the use of fingers and thumbs when forearms, elbows or other tools will do
  • Make sure you eat healthy
  • Take breaks
  • Ground
  • Remember to breathe

Self care tips when you’re at home:

As long as care is taken, anyone can have a long and happy career in massage therapy. It is a wonderfully fulfilling profession and as any therapist will tell you, one of the best jobs anywhere.

Here are some other resources for exploring self-care for therapists:

Self-care Tips (AMTA)

Achieving Energy, Health and Presence: Yoga and Self-Care for MTs (NHI)