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      Protocols And Treatments

      Massage Tables

      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 different.

      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 face 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 [email protected]

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