How to apply pressure without straining your body or damaging your hands is one of the greatest challenges involved in massage.
A significant cause of early retirement from the massage profession is the cumulative strains on the body developed in the course of performing massage. The growth of the profession in recent years has been accompanied by an increase in the number of work induced problems.
Good working practices
Working safely and effectively in massage sessions is essential to sustaining your career. The main things to focus on are:
conserving your hands by using them carefully and skillfully;
saving them by using other working ‘tools’ such as your forearms and elbows whenever possible (‘Hands Free’ massage);
involving your whole body to generate the power and movement that supports your working hands;
not following a rigid routine, but adapting your massage for each client and to suit your own build and abilities;
monitoring yourself in action so that you can adjust what you’re doing when you notice strains developing;
and referring on clients whose needs are beyond your comfortable ability to deliver (e.g. because of their large build and/or the pressure that they want).
Looking after your hands
The most commonly strained areas in massage are:
the base of the thumb due to applying too much pressure through it, especially with it hyperextended (bent back);
and the wrist, primarily due to applying pressure with it hyperextended.
Practitioners with long, slender hands need to be especially careful about the types of strokes that you use and how you apply them, especially if you are working with a clientele who require firm massage.
However all practitioners need to be careful about applying too much pressure through the thumbs, which can easily tire them and, if done too often, begin to strain them. Save them by learning to use other parts of the hand more, such as your knuckles and fist, and by the skillful use of your forearm and elbow. And, whenever, possible, reduce the pressure on your wrist by supporting it with your other hand.
Using your body
Massage novices often stand still as they massage, putting strain on the back and building up tension in their shoulders. Instead it’s important to position and move your body to deliver power and fluidity to massage strokes, rather than overusing your upper body.