Ergonomic Tips For Massage Therapists And Bodyworkers

Massage therapy is a very physical profession, and because of this the risk of injury is quite high. I am sure many of us have suffered from some kind of strain during our career, often as a result of poor position or motion when giving a massage. To be able to perform our work effectively and injury-free, requires a set of skills in ergonomics that many of us studied at the beginning of our career but may have forgotten by now, or simply do not apply in our everyday work. I wanted to write this article with some top ergonomic tips for massage therapists hoping that they will help you work in a safe and effective manner. This will benefit yourself both short- and longterm and help you run a successful massage practice for a long long time ahead.

Ergonomic Tips For A Safe And Durable Massage Career

  • MASSAGE TABLE HEIGHT. Make sure that your massage table is at a proper height. For normal massage, a good reference height is your wrist, and for a deep pressure massage, in which you use especially your body weight for applying pressure, it should be a bit lower.
  • POSTURE. The correct posture for applying massage is standing with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightlyergonomics-for-massage-therapists-posture bent. The idea is to move your body weight from one leg to the other, in a soft rocking movement. Depending on the massage stroke applied, you move your body weight sideways or forwards and backwards. Remember to keep your back straight and neck relaxed!
  • APPLYING PRESSURE CORRECTLY. When applying pressure, the force should originate in your shoulders or forearms, and not your hands/fingers. The idea is to use your body weight as much as possible in order not to strain your hands and fingers.
  • TAKE BREAKS. Try to have a minimum of 15min break between the massage treatments.
  • ALTERNATE TREATMENTS. Try to never apply a deep pressure massage (such deep tissue massage, sports massage…) for more than 120min. When possible, try to combine deep pressure massages with softer massage treatments (this is naturally easier when working for a large Spa or Wellness Center as they have several therapists that can alternate).
  • STRETCH. Strech your fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders and neck at least twice a day. A good time to do this is to use 5min (or more if you have time!) of your break to stretch. Remember to keep your neck and jaw relaxed when giving a massage (we tend to tense them). It helps to breath long and deep breaths, this will relax you.
  • SAFE FOOTWEAR. Use adequate shoes that are comfortable, breathable and allow you to move safely.
  • PROJECT AN EXEMPLARY IMAGE. We work in the Wellness sector, and we should be able to motivate our clients with the image we project of ourselves. Maintain yourself in a good physical shape through exercise, stretches, and a healthy nutrition. Maintain your mind at ease, and work on living on positive energy. A great practice that works on a body-mind-energy level is Yoga; it makes us strong, flexible and gives us peace of mind, all in one!

I have consciously left the last three points blank here, hoping that you would fill them out. Please write three ergonomic tips for massage therapists in the comments below, that in your experience are crucial, and that you want to share with other massage therapists and bodyworkers! Thank You for your input!

Wishing you a meaningful day ahead,

César Tejedor


19 thoughts on “Ergonomic Tips For Massage Therapists And Bodyworkers”

  1. Jayachandran Thampi

    Very useful tips. May be a good warm salt water body shower at the end of day helps gain an extra mile in relaxation. Water – hydration is a very important requirement as well.

    Well thought of written. Thanks.

  2. Maintaining your focus. Find ways to connect inwardly before your day begins, during the day and at the end of the day. We need to make sure we are projecting positive energy and not picking up negative energy. Water is a powerful medium through which we can relax and restore.

    1. great Christy thank you for your insights!! we many times forget to find time just to connect with ourselves to set the intention for our actions or work for the day.

  3. As everything is energy, to totally feel and be the energy, that is in all bodies and life, instead of doing and working on the body. To simply be in that space, there is no strain, no wrong position, overworking or injuries, its just flow and harmony. As a therapist to be the tool for the energy, as healing and flow, is my long time experience and utter joy.

    1. thank you Carelyn for your lovely words! we totally agree on the importance of energy and how to use it to really heal our clients from within.

  4. I would say while giving a session, one should be a channel for healing. When I practice from within this space I become a full conduit for healing and personally feel more therapeutic results, coming full circle so that the healer is healed. 🙂

    1. What a wonderful comment David! definitely we should not forget the more spiritual aspect of the healing experience!

  5. Duane Dobrowolski

    Thank you. This is really an important topic, especially for those who want to do deeper work.

    My caveat is that I don’t do massage per se… I began as a massage therapist but now focus on pain elimination and the prevention of surgeries that are unnecessary such as hip or carpal tunnel, and most shoulder, back and knee surgeries. So, I only do very deep work, much deeper than deep tissue massage and often 8 or 9 hours a day, so here are some of my recommendations that I use (and teach).

    1. Yes, a low table. Using your weight or that of your patient. Mine is a bit lower than what you recommend.

    2. Minimal use hands or fingers. If I use my hands its with a straight arm, using my weight only. No force. I use my forearm, sometimes elbows or–closed fist if I’m using the weight of my patient. But mostly forearm.

    3. Never strain. You should be as relaxed as your patient. Any strain or force on your part will be sensed by the person you are working on AND it is not good for the therapist. It is always good to stretch or relax, but if you feel you NEED to, you are not working correctly. If you need to stop after two hours, your ergonomics is not ideal.

    4. Your weight should always be directly above your point of contact to eliminate any need for force on your part.

    Feedback is important.. it’s important to get in deep if you want to eliminate pain, but it is counterproductive if the body is resisting rather than accepting and welcoming that depth. The patient should feel relief as you go in deeper and deeper.

    Duane (

    1. thank you Duane for your valuable insights!! very good points that Im sure all of our readers can benefit from!

  6. Make sure you have at least one day a week that you do no massage at all, and let your body rest.

    Don’t eat foods that might increase inflammation in your body. Tendonitis and joint pain are as much to do with your diet as with your activity.

    Spend the money on a table with a hydrolic lift. You can adjust the height to every client, and change it within the massage also. You can get one used from a spa that’s going out of business. A used hydrolic table costs the same as a new portable table.

    1. thank you so much Barbara for your tips!! very good ones and Im sure all of us can make use of them i our practice!!

  7. Melissa Neethling

    I have been using my elbows for the last few years to get to the knots in the back. Little did I know that I was damaging them. They both dislocated and I didn’t realise it. It took months of pain and only being able to do a little work, before by accident, my chiropractor checked them and fixed them that was 6 months ago, it’s has taken all this time for the tendon, ligaments and muscles to repair themselves. I take osteo ease and arthroguard which has helped a lot. They have dislocated again a few times since from picking up heavy things, like a shopping packet or a laundry basket, but I’m very careful now and healing much better. I have started working a little harder that I could then. Please let this be a warning that overuse of any body part, can cause damage. I’ve been massaging for 23 years and this problem onlying man feted itself 18 months ago, I suffered nearly a year before finding out what it was. I also lost a lot of clients as I had to turn them away. I am now trying to rebuild my clientele.
    Kindly, Melissa

    1. Dear Melissa,
      I am so sorry to hear about your elbow injury. After 23 years practicing massage it is very normal to have different joint issues, if not osteoarthritis or so on. My best advice is always to power your muscles, to warm up before working and stretch at the end of the working day… same that professional sport people do. If you didn’t after 23 years working on this profession your ligaments, tendons and muscles are probably more sensitive to suffer injuries. Have you ever try to use massage tools like sticks, gua sha, stones, etc., you do not have to press that much? Have you tried to lower your massage table in order to make the pressure from your body weight instead your harms and forearms? I am trying to think different solutions but at the end you are the one who knows your body, and you should listen to it. Good luck in your professional practice and keep trying to find different ways and solutions. Warm regards,

  8. Eco Organic Private Spa center Kessem Bamaga

    Awesome tips for a massagem therapist
    All must be kept during our day of work.

    One more to add.
    Avoid non organic massage oil and essential oils. You colect toxins out of them all your massage working day and every day.
    Buy quality products keep you safe.

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