Giving Yourself Priority
Giving Yourself Priority

Giving Yourself Priority

By Theresa A. Schmidt, DPT, OCS, LMT
March 10, 2021

Giving Yourself Priority

By Theresa A. Schmidt, DPT, OCS, LMT
March 10, 2021

Work-related musculoskeletal injury cuts short too many massage careers. You learned proper posture and biomechanics in school, but have you kept up with what you learned? Remember, to truly help our clients, we must take care of ourselves first. Here are some simple tips to promote your healthy career for years to come. 

Self-Care During a Massage Session

Adjust Table Height

If a hydraulic table is unavailable, you can adjust your posture, bending your knees and hips instead of flexing your trunk, to lower your center of gravity. Average table height should be trochanter level, or fingertip level if you are standing. Keep your spine neutral to avoid extra stress on your back. 

Keep a sturdy stool or box available to step up on for greater leverage when you need to stack and align your joints above a body part, enabling you to perform deeper work. For deeper types of massage therapy, a lower table may be preferred. Keep pillows and bolsters handy to modify client position for greater access and comfort. 

Be Mindful of Posture and Movements

Place a mirror on the wall for biofeedback. Observe how often you put yourself in compromising positions that may result in injury. Make the time to observe yourself and adjust accordingly.  

Trade sessions with other therapist to identify and share observed risk factors and adjust the mechanics as you work to gauge outcomes. No judgements, just positive reinforcement of healthy habits to support your mutual goals!

Avoid Excessive Force

When going deep, ease in gradually. Practice being ambidextrous, and use your forearms, knuckles, and elbows. 

Alternate sides to avoid overuse of one hand and vary your techniques. Have fun using massage tools: select your favorites and conserve energy.

Get In Line

Optimal alignment protects your joints and maximizes efficiency to save energy. Align your fingers, wrists, and elbows in a stacked position above your point of contact. Avoid hyperextending your joints, as hypermobility may lead to career-ending joint damage. 

Stand with a broad base of support, keep your feet shoulder width apart in sturdy footwear. Take a stance with one foot forward, keeping your knees unlocked to allow your weight to shift forward and back easily. Maintain a neutral spine, with normal lordotic curves in your cervical and lumbar spine. Work rhythmically from your core, which is your center of stability.  

Maintaining Good Habits

Find Your Balance

Consider practicing yoga or Tai Chi, where you will learn to establish movements that balance your weight. 

During massage, feel the connection with the earth as you move, grounding yourself for balance and power. Instead of using force, allow your body weight to shift forward, using gravity to lean in from your core and legs.

Take A Break

Allow at least a 15-minute break between sessions. Take deep breaths, stretch, hydrate, ease tension and walk around. Take a day off each week to recharge.

Stay Fit

Stay fit with regular workouts, including core strength and stability exercises to promote longevity in your practice and aid in injury prevention. Practice flexibility and conditioning exercises regularly, including core stability and balance. Warmup first to prepare your hands. A strong core and powerful legs provide the power and stability needed.

Possible Injuries And Self-Care

So, You Overdid It?

To recover more fully from overexertion, try these simple tips. See your health provider for evaluation and care of any injuries. 

Apply cold packs to an area of strain. A frozen bag of peas or baggie of crushed ice over a terry towel for 10-15 minutes, three to five times day, may provide anti-inflammatory relief. Support the area while it heals with a brace or taping while you sleep or work. Remove the brace to perform gentle range of motion exercise to promote circulation throughout the day. Medicated liniments and essential oils may improve circulation and act as counterirritants. Ingredients such as methyl salicylate (wintergreen), peppermint oil and menthol will sooth sore muscles as you massage them. 

(Check for skin sensitivity or allergy first.) Getting a massage is wonderful, but if you cannot, try self-care to promote healing, such as positional release and self-massage.

Positional Release/Strain-Counterstrain

To ease the strain and painful trigger points related to overuse, try these gentle techniques. 

Gently place the trigger point muscle in a passively shortened position for two minutes and ease out of it slowly to relax hypersensitive spindles, increase circulation, and release pain. Repeat as needed several times daily. Perform gentle motions of the area and note the change in trigger point pain. If any motion is painful, stop.  

Taking time to meet your needs will allow you the opportunity to stay stronger and help more people feel great through the power of massage.

Tennis elbow: To relieve trigger points in the wrist/finger extensors, commonly present in this condition, rest the supinated forearm on the table on a pillow. With the opposite hand, gently move the wrist and fingers into extension.

Golfer’s elbow: To relieve trigger points in the wrist/finger flexors, commonly present in this condition, rest the pronated forearm on the table on a pillow. With the opposite hand, gently move the wrist and fingers into flexion. (Contraindicated in case of carpal tunnel syndrome, too much wrist flexion may compress a compromised median nerve.)

Opponens pollicis tendinitis: To relieve strain of thumb opposition, rest the hand on the table on a pillow, palm up. Passively bend the thumb toward the fifth finger and hold.

DeQuervain's tenosynovitis: To relieve strain of the thumb extensor/abductors, rest the hand on the table, forearm neutral. Grasp the thumb and pull it gently into extension with abduction.

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