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 isyour massage table. Choosing theproper table and accessories to buycan be a daunting task. There areso many choices, so many manufacturers,a multitude of table names,varied widths, specialized uses anda rainbow of colors. Whether I amon a trade show floor, speaking ata school or in our call center, thesame concerns seem to be globalin the industry. How can I possiblymake an informed choice with somany decisions to make?
I would like to share with yousome bits of information I hope mayhelp you sort through some of theoptions and enable you to make theright choice for your needs, yourbody type and your budget. In thisarticle, you will find some of themore frequently asked questions answeredin a non-biased and informativemanner. By taking the time toconsider some of the points to follow,you can be confident you havemade the best possible buying decisionfor 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 buyinga gift for a loved one. What areyour specific reasons for purchasinga massage table? Will you havea brick-and-mortar business? Orwill you be on the road? Are youspecializing in mobile therapy atsports events or will you be seeingindividual clients? Once you havefirmly established your needs fora table then making some of theother choices gets a bit easier.
How much can I afford to spend?
Believe it or not, this decision isnot driven by budget alone. Onceyou have decided your intendeduse, you can weigh out the benefitsof an open-end model as opposedto a more professional-grade table.For instance, an average consumerwanting a massage table in theirhome will not have the same requirementsa professional massagetherapist will have. The needs aredifferent.
Some will tell you to buy themost expensive table you can findbecause they equate cost with quality.Others will tell you to spendas little as possible because theyare penny-wise and pound-foolish.The truth is, high cost doesnot always indicate quality and aless expensive table is not alwaysa lesser quality table. The most important thing to remember is tobuy professional-grade equipmentfor your practice.You do not have to spend a greatdeal to spend wisely. The most economicalpurchase a massage therapistcan make is an informed purchase.Investing in a product thatcan withstand repeated usage dayafter day, is far more economicalthan replacing a table every threeyears. Over the long haul, what featureswill withstand the ravages oftime and usage? Comparing woods,vinyl, hinges, face rests, joints andsupport cables can help you decidewhat will best fit your needs.
What width table do I need?
This often is the biggest reasonfor buyer’s remorse amongtherapists. The old adage “biggeris better” does not always applyto massage tables. Your own bodystyle has a great deal to do with thewidth of the table that you will findmost comfortable day after day.If you choose a table too widefor your body type, you can beginusing improper body mechanics andcause yourself discomfort and stressto your lower back. In most cases,if your height is approximately 5’4”to 6’5”, I suggest the use of a tablefrom 29” to 31”. The most popularand widely recognized standardsize table is 30” in width. This tableaccommodates most therapists, anda large percentage of clients will fitcomfortably on this size table. Ifyou are more petite, you may needto consider a table 28” – 29” wide.If you are taller in stature, you maywant to consider tables 32” and up.
What height range should I look for?
Table height is determined bypractitioner stature and the modalitythey practice. The majorityof portable tables on the markettoday can adjust to a varied heightof 24” to 34” or higher. This canaccommodate most needs and iswidely accepted as the average.Some modalities require the tableto adjust lower or even lie flat onthe floor. For example, shiatsu andFeldenkrais both require loweradjustment. Look at your needs todetermine if this is a feature youwill require in your regular practice.Keep in mind proper bodymechanics when you are consideringa table. You do not want tolean over too far and cause stresson your back; conversely, you donot want to stand on your toes toreach the mid-back of a client.Protecting your own health is paramountbecause an injured therapistis an unemployed therapist.
Is table weight really important?
Most wooden portable tablesweigh in ranges of 30 lbs to 38 lbs.You also can purchase some well-madealuminum models that are21 lbs to 29 lbs. You should thinkabout how often you will be transportingyour table. If you are planningto work outcalls, then weightis a factor. Keep in mind your carrycase, face cradle, sheets, fleece pad,table warmers, oils, tools and bolsterswill add weight to your transport.It’s important to choose aquality carry case with cross-body,carry straps to minimize the wearand tear on your body.
One amazing little miracle designedto save the therapist’s backwas the invention of the table cart.These fabulous little devices arefantastic for a mobile therapist andcan alleviate much of the transportwoes for your table and peripheralproducts. Thanks to the genius ofthis cart, you can consider a heaviertable and know that you will onlybe lifting it in and out of the car,rather than carrying it from the carto the client’s door.
Should I invest in an adjustable face rest?
In all things, a positive first impressionis key. When it comes tothe comfort of your client, nothingshould be left to chance. There area wide variety of manufacturersproducing adjustable headrests andmost are well worth the investment.A few things to look for arequiet release knobs, easy adjustmentand overall strength. Yourclients will feel you have provideda more personalized treatment ifyou can adjust the headrest to fittheir comfort level. To go one stepbeyond the adjustable cradle, perhapsyou should consider a memoryfoamface rest. This table additivecan enhance the overall massageexperience by reducing facial pressurepoints and preventing sinuspain. This also can make the bestof a standard non-adjustable platformif budgetary restraints are anissue. In most cases, manufacturersoffer their tables in packages andoften include a carry case and adjustableface rest.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.