Injury Prevention For Massage Therapists Dr. Michael P. Gillespie
The Bad News • Massage is very hard on your hands and upper extremities. • Most massage therapists experience some kind of injury or pain syndrome at some point in their career as the result of giving massages. • The body is not designed for the intense, repetitive work of massage for extended periods of time.
The Good News • There are many things you can do to protect yourself from injury related to your massage work. • You can change your posture. • You can adjust your massage technique.
Three Concepts to Remember • 1. Think of yourself as an athlete. • You are doing intense, physical work that requires skill, strength, and endurance. • You need to train, stay in good physical condition, and remove yourself from the game when you are injured. • 2. Increase body awareness. • Increase your consciousness of your body’s strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and limitations. • Generate a heightened awareness of the signals your body sends. • 3. Develop adequate knowledge of the physiology of injury. • Recognize the symptoms of injury. • Know what to do to treat those injuries.
What Causes Injury • Repetitive strain causes injury. • There is a limit to how many times we can repeat the same repetitive motion before tissue damage and injury occurs. • Adding pressure to repetitive motion increases the demands on your tissues. • Lack of alignment. • Maintaining proper alignment will greatly reduce your risk of injury. • Whenever possible, keep you fingers in line with your hands, your hands in line with your wrists, your wrists in line with your forearm, your forearm in line with your upper arm.
Lifestyle Factors • Lifestyle and other general health factors determine how prone you are to injury. • Age • Previous injuries • Diet • Alcohol, cigarette, or other drug use • Strength • Aerobic fitness
Logistical Factors • Suddenly increasing the number of massages you perform every day without training to attain that level puts you at risk. • Suddenly decreasing the rest time between massages puts you at risk. • You need time to stretch, breathe, and relax. • Massaging in a cramped room. • Working with a table at an improper height will cause poor body biomechanics.
Attitude • Do NOT accept pain. • Pain is not normal. It is a signal from your body that something is wrong. • Do not accept pain as part of your work. • Some massage therapists believe that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do their work. Do not continue to use a technique that is hurting you because it is the ‘right’ way to work. • “If it hurts, don’t do it!”
Attitude • Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to anything that may cause you to be injured. • There is no such thing as a ‘good’ massage and a ‘bad’ massage. • Massage is both an art and a science. • There is no one right or good way of doing it. • Give yourself the freedom to work with your body’s strengths and limitations.
Principles of Injury Prevention • Get in shape. • Develop proper body mechanics. • Avoid other hand-intensive activities. • Take care of your hands every day. • Work with your body characteristics, not against them. • Vary your massage technique.
Principles of Injury Prevention • Don’t use massage techniques that cause you pain. • Monitor your work habits. • Take time between massages. • Use other modalities between massages. • Develop a realistic attitude towards your work. (Respect your limits and your body) • Treat injuries immediately and effectively.
Improving Body Mechanics • Reassess the foundation of your approach to massage. • Focus on basic ergonomics and body awareness. • As you relearn technique, open yourself up to change, even minor changes. • Fine-tune your technique by studying your body movement in front of a mirror. • Practice on a friend or a family member with a mirror across from the massage table until you feel comfortable with the new technique. • Watching your technique in the mirror promotes self-awareness and constructs a more object framework for assessment.
Ergonomics • Adjust the height of your massage table to your own height, your client’s needs, and your modality. • If you use a pneumatic rolling stool, adjust the height for proper body alignment. • A mix of sitting on a massage stool and standing is healthy. It prevents you from working in the same position all day and balances out the stresses on the body.
Diversify • Use two or three different modalities to minimize the stresses on your body. • Diversify you practice to include some less physically demanding modalities such as hot stones, energy work, shiatsu, etc.