by Angie Patrick
Reprinted with permission from the January, 2008 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at www.massagetoday.com
In massage therapy, one of the
biggest purchases you will make is
your massage table. Choosing the
proper table and accessories to buy
can be a daunting task. There are
so many choices, so many manufacturers,
a multitude of table names,
varied widths, specialized uses and
a rainbow of colors. Whether I am
on a trade show floor, speaking at
a school or in our call center, the
same concerns seem to be global
in the industry. How can I possibly
make an informed choice with so
many decisions to make?
I would like to share with you
some bits of information I hope may
help you sort through some of the
options and enable you to make the
right choice for your needs, your
body type and your budget. In this
article, you will find some of the
more frequently asked questions answered
in a non-biased and informative
manner. By taking the time to
consider some of the points to follow,
you can be confident you have
made the best possible buying decision
for you and your unique needs.
How do I plan on using my table?
You may be a spa company,
student, seasoned professional,
homemaker or a grandparent buying
a gift for a loved one. What are
your specific reasons for purchasing
a massage table? Will you have
a brick-and-mortar business? Or
will you be on the road? Are you
specializing in mobile therapy at
sports events or will you be seeing
individual clients? Once you have
firmly established your needs for
a table then making some of the
other choices gets a bit easier.
How much can I afford to spend?
Believe it or not, this decision is
not driven by budget alone. Once
you have decided your intended
use, you can weigh out the benefits
of an open-end model as opposed
to a more professional-grade table.
For instance, an average consumer
wanting a massage table in their
home will not have the same requirements
a professional massage
therapist will have. The needs are
Some will tell you to buy the
most expensive table you can find
because they equate cost with quality.
Others will tell you to spend
as little as possible because they
are penny-wise and pound-foolish.
The truth is, high cost does
not always indicate quality and a
less expensive table is not always
a lesser quality table. The most important thing to remember is to
buy professional-grade equipment
for your practice.
You do not have to spend a great
deal to spend wisely. The most economical
purchase a massage therapist
can make is an informed purchase.
Investing in a product that
can withstand repeated usage day
after day, is far more economical
than replacing a table every three
years. Over the long haul, what features
will withstand the ravages of
time and usage? Comparing woods,
vinyl, hinges, face rests, joints and
support cables can help you decide
what will best fit your needs.
What width table do I need?
This often is the biggest reason
for buyer’s remorse among
therapists. The old adage “bigger
is better” does not always apply
to massage tables. Your own body
style has a great deal to do with the
width of the table that you will find
most comfortable day after day.
If you choose a table too wide
for your body type, you can begin
using improper body mechanics and
cause yourself discomfort and stress
to your lower back. In most cases,
if your height is approximately 5’4”
to 6’5”, I suggest the use of a table
from 29” to 31”. The most popular
and widely recognized standard
size table is 30” in width. This table
accommodates most therapists, and
a large percentage of clients will fit
comfortably on this size table. If
you are more petite, you may need
to consider a table 28” – 29” wide.
If you are taller in stature, you may
want to consider tables 32” and up.
What height range should I look for?
Table height is determined by
practitioner stature and the modality
they practice. The majority
of portable tables on the market
today can adjust to a varied height
of 24” to 34” or higher. This can
accommodate most needs and is
widely accepted as the average.
Some modalities require the table
to adjust lower or even lie flat on
the floor. For example, shiatsu and
Feldenkrais both require lower
adjustment. Look at your needs to
determine if this is a feature you
will require in your regular practice.
Keep in mind proper body
mechanics when you are considering
a table. You do not want to
lean over too far and cause stress
on your back; conversely, you do
not want to stand on your toes to
reach the mid-back of a client.
Protecting your own health is paramount
because an injured therapist
is an unemployed therapist.
Is table weight really important?
Most wooden portable tables
weigh in ranges of 30 lbs to 38 lbs.
You also can purchase some well-made
aluminum models that are
21 lbs to 29 lbs. You should think
about how often you will be transporting
your table. If you are planning
to work outcalls, then weight
is a factor. Keep in mind your carry
case, face cradle, sheets, fleece pad,
table warmers, oils, tools and bolsters
will add weight to your transport.
It’s important to choose a
quality carry case with cross-body,
carry straps to minimize the wear
and tear on your body.
One amazing little miracle designed
to save the therapist’s back
was the invention of the table cart.
These fabulous little devices are
fantastic for a mobile therapist and
can alleviate much of the transport
woes for your table and peripheral
products. Thanks to the genius of
this cart, you can consider a heavier
table and know that you will only
be lifting it in and out of the car,
rather than carrying it from the car
to the client’s door.
Should I invest in an adjustable face rest?
In all things, a positive first impression
is key. When it comes to
the comfort of your client, nothing
should be left to chance. There are
a wide variety of manufacturers
producing adjustable headrests and
most are well worth the investment.
A few things to look for are
quiet release knobs, easy adjustment
and overall strength. Your
clients will feel you have provided
a more personalized treatment if
you can adjust the headrest to fit
their comfort level. To go one step
beyond the adjustable cradle, perhaps
you should consider a memoryfoam
face rest. This table additive
can enhance the overall massage
experience by reducing facial pressure
points and preventing sinus
pain. This also can make the best
of a standard non-adjustable platform
if budgetary restraints are an
issue. In most cases, manufacturers
offer their tables in packages and
often include a carry case and adjustable
Endplates? What are endplates?
You often will have an option
of choosing standard or Reiki endplates.
The differences are subtle
but important. Many modalities,
including varied types of energy
work, require you to position your
knees under the table while seated.
If you practice one of these modalities
or like the idea of enjoying that
capability, then you will want to ask
for Reiki endplates. These are the
support beams on the ends of the
tables and can be built to allow easy
access for your legs. If your planned
modality will not require you to
work in a seated position, you will
do well with standard endplates that
cross the lower portion of the table.
I have no idea what color to choose! So many choices!
Individual tastes vary, but ultimately
there are a few colors that
have been proven to be tried and
true favorites: teal, agate, black,
burgundy, green, tan and purple.
But even though these are the
most commonly stocked and readily
available does not mean they
are the only options. In fact, there
are so many colors on the market
the choices are virtually endless.
Ultimately, your table rarely will
be seen by anyone, given you have
properly layered it with a body
warmer, fleece pad, fitted sheet,
top sheet and blanket. Perhaps
you will leave your table stationary
for the most part and have décor
to consider, or you may want to be
bold and make a personal statement.
In either case, manufacturers have
a wide array of colors to suit your
needs. Some colors may require
special ordering and may take a bit
longer to ship. So just have fun, and
do what makes YOU feel good!
I have seen tables at discount/ wholesale clubs with a great price.
They look OK, so why should I continue to look?
Have you ever heard that beauty
is only skin deep? It can be especially
true of discount or bargain store
tables. Here are a few things to consider
when you are comparing tables.
WOOD: You should look for
well-made construction of hardwoods
such as oak, birch, bamboo or
maple. Avoid soft woods your fingernail
can sink into. Soft wood means
low weight support, and can result in
table warping and bowed legs.
HINGES: Additionally, you
should pay attention to the hinges
used to join the two halves of your
table. A full-length hinge is best
in avoiding table torque and twist.
The center of your table is its
weakest point. You should be sure
the hinges are built to withstand
weight and repeated usage.
FOAM DENSITY: “Discount”
tables often have a 2” – 2.5” single
layer of foam or less. This will not
withstand repeated usage on a
professional level. These are better
suited for the consumer who is
looking for a table for home use.
For better comfort over the life
span of your table, I recommend
tables with double- or triple-layered
2.5” foam systems or higher.
Most professional-grade tables have
a multi-layered 2.5” – 3” or higher
foam system, built to withstand the
needs of the professional user. Multiple
layers of foam in varied densities
help to prevent the client from
eventually “bottoming out” on the
platform of the table. The singlelayer,
single-density foams have a
distinct habit of wearing out and
breaking down with repeated use.
NOISE REDUCTION: After
time, some discount membership
club tables can begin to squeak and
creak, leaving the client uncomfortable
and concerned about the
table integrity and ability to support
their weight. Tables built with
the professional in mind will have
squeak-resistant legs and joints,
built to withstand continuous use.
Some Basic Maintenance Tips to Extend the Life of Your Table
Just as with your car, truck,
lawnmower, or any other equipment
you depend on, your table requires
maintenance. I suggest going over
your table once a month to make
sure the wheel knobs are securely
tightened. Check your table legs to
inspect for any fractures or cracks
that may have developed. If you
have screws or bolts, check them
to make certain they are tight and
secure. If you take the time to make
sure your table is performing up to
par, you will lessen the likelihood of
mishaps and table failures.
There are many manufacturers
and retailers that provide professional
products. Most have very informative
Web sites you can peruse
and see images of the tables before
you buy. Do your research online
and make the comparisons. You are
now armed with a bit of knowledge
that should make choosing the
right table much easier.
Angie Patrick is Director of Massage
Business Development and Corporate Sales
for Massage Warehouse, Scrip Companies
and the creator of the philanthropic project,
SANCTUARY. She can be reached at