Do you have the stamina needed to massage a client for an hour or more? Do you have the strength to help your elderly or physically challenged patients on and off the massage table? Do you become fatigued while you are working near the end of the day? To become a highly effective massage therapist, you must learn the principles of proper body mechanics. Proper body mechanics stems from a massage therapist’s healthy choices concerning nutrition, exercise and relaxation. These healthy choices reflect on your proper body mechanics including balance, breathing, foot stance, groundedness, strength, stability and stamina.
Respect the laws of gravity by using proper body mechanics and using a balanced posture. Energy loss is reduced during a massage therapy session if you use a balanced posture. Exercises that promote balance include yoga and tai chi.
By using proper breathing techniques, you will be more relaxed, be better at pacing massage movements and help fuel your muscles with oxygen to reduce fatigue. Proper breathing can also enhance your mental and physical health, which transfers into a better massage for your clients.
You can use a breathing technique called volitional breathing. As you reach to stroke the client exhale and then as you come back toward your body you inhale. This rhythmic breathing will create a steady and serine experience for you and your client. Deep breathing can also induce relaxation and lower stress as you massage your client.
The placement of your feet on the ground will influence the direction of your massage stroke and provide a stable base at the same time. Foot placement has a big effect on body mechanics and body alignment. There are two common foot stances that you can use during a massage therapy session, the bow and warrior stances. When the bow and warrior stances are used, your feet will make contact with the ground at three specific points offering complete balance and stability while massaging your client.
- Bow Stance – used when you apply any stroke that proceeds from one point to the next along the client’s body while you face the head or foot of the massage table. Your feet should be placed in a 30 to 50-degree angle, the lead foot pointing straight forward and the trailing foot pointing toward the side. While massaging the client keep your knees flexed and shift your weight between the lead and trailing foot as needed to maintain balance. By using the bow stance, you can remain in contact with the client’s body and maintain a consistent flow during the massage. Don’t forget to bend at the hips instead of the waist to prevent injury to your back and to maintain balance during the massage.
- Warrior Stance – used to perform short strokes or strokes that cause friction. It can also be used if you are reaching over to the far side of the client to maintain a stable base and stay balanced. In the warrior stance, you will face the opposite side of the massage table while both of your feet are placed on the ground, a little more than hip distance apart while your toes are pointing forward. Keep your hips pointing forward and your back straight to reduce injuries.
In addition to proper foot stance, you should make sure to wear comfortable shoes with low or no heel and good arch supports. Comfortable shoes will allow you to stand longer and not get cramps in your feet or legs from excessive standing throughout the day.
Being grounded means having a connection between your body and mind. Being grounded is important mentally, physically and emotionally. Taking the time to prepare your mind will make you a better and more compassionate massage therapist. Exercises that promote groundedness include meditation, yoga and tai chi.
Giving a proper massage requires physical strength. As a massage therapist, you will want to keep your strength through proper nutrition and exercise, so you don’t get fatigued easily. Strength training can help massage therapists gain muscle to be better at manipulating the patient’s soft tissue during a massage. Some easy to do exercises to strengthen your body include push-ups and sit-ups. You can also do weight training or resistance training to increase muscle mass for greater strength.
Effective body mechanics require you to move from a stable standing position, with your feet forming the foundation for all movement during the massage. Using the lower part of your body increases your stability since it holds more power than the upper part of your body. Try to practice proper body mechanics by standing with equal weight on both feet to enhance stability during a massage. Also, shifting more weight to your lower body will reduce the chance of injury to your upper body.
As a massage therapist, you must possess enough stamina and endurance to work with clients all day. A great way for you to get stamina is through cardiovascular training. Follow a proper regimen of exercise to keep your heart rate up for 30-minute intervals, several times a week. This cardiovascular training will improve your massage therapy stamina. Make sure to get enough sleep each night to lessen fatigue. Also, a proper intake of fluids, especially water, can keep you hydrated and will improve your stamina, reducing fatigue.
Additional guidelines to proper body mechanics involve wearing comfortable clothes that are professional and allow you to move freely while massaging your client. Before you start working, try warming up your body to improve strength and reduce the possibility of injury. While warming up, work to raise your heart rate and blood flow, in addition to regular stretching. For better stamina and stability, you can lean against the table or massage from a seated position. Always keep your spine straight to reduce the possibility of injury. You can also take stretch breaks between clients to strengthen and stretch your muscles, especially your hands. If you must lift your client, keep them as close to your body as possible as to not hurt your back or injure your arms.
Interested in learning more about the principles of massage therapy body mechanics? Ready to start a Massage Therapy Program? Mildred Elley’s Massage Therapy Schools in Albany, NY, Pittsfield, MA and Manhattan, NY offer you the education, practice and skills necessary to get started in the massage therapy profession. The program satisfies the academic requirements to qualify massage therapy graduates for the New York State Massage Therapy Examination or for the Massachusetts State Massage Therapy Examination.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist.