How to Choose Your Massage Table
The most important tool of any therapist’s kit is the massage table, and it’s one of the first investments you’ll make in your massage career. A table can be expensive, usually between $400 and $700—but it’s a carefully constructed piece of equipment that will last you many years
The American Massage Therapy Association outlines the following breakdown of why, exactly, a more expensive table makes sense, and that more money upfront will pay off in the long run while offering an improved experience for both you and your client:
“An established massage therapist averaging approximately 1,000 massages per year will have completed 5,000 massages in a five-year period. If the therapist paid $500 for her table, the cost per massage would average 10 cents.”
So what should you look for in a good table? Here are a few tips.
In general, choosing the right massage table width is a matter of balancing the potential comfort of clients with your own. Narrower tables are easier on massage therapists in multiple ways. Not only are they lighter and therefore easy to transport and carry, but they also provide the least straining posture for the therapist. You need to be able to comfortably position your body during massage so that you can square your shoulders and hips to the client, pivoting at the waist to have your hands parallel to their spine. If the table is too wide, this can be a difficult posture to maintain and cause back strain for the therapist.
The industry standard for a massage table width is 30”, shorter therapists, under 5’4”, or those who need a lighter table for mobility might choose a 28” width, or a table with a narrow midsection that is the standard 30” at the ends. Tall therapists, meaning 5’11” or taller, or therapists who work with larger clients like athletes, might want to choose a table of a 32” width.
This is the most important aspect of your table—a well constructed table will not only last you for years, but it will be able to support anyone you’re treating! This is not only a safety issue, but even your most loyal client might not feel so forgiving when they’re laying naked on the floor with a bruised tailbone. Even if your table is labeled as bearing 300 pounds, there are many different ways that weight can be measured, so be sure you understand what you’re looking at.
Static Weight—The weight that one can place on a table without it breaking or collapsing.
Working Weight—This is the moving weight that a table can support. The Static Weight is placed gently on the table and not moved, but the Working Weight is a much better indicator of what it will be like with a real live person (because they move!).
Drop Weight—Typically, this means the amount of weight that can be dropped from 6 inches above the table over a hinge or joint (the weakest points) but sometimes manufacturers will drop the weight over a leg or end rail (the strongest points), so be sure to ask.
Different tables are padded differently, usually for different techniques. Once again, its a matter of balancing client comfort and your massage technique—the firmer the table, the more able you will be to exert pressure on the client’s body, and the softer it is the more they will sink into the table. We think 3 inches of padding is a good average to look for, but the density of the padding may be more important than the amount.
Here are a few more quick tips to leave you with when considering the purchase of your first massage table.
-If you have any interest in pursuing Shiatsu massage, look for a table with collapsible legs so you can place it on the floor.
-If you are tall (5’10’ or more) and looking for a portable table, you may want to chose one that has two pins or screws in each leg to increase stability when set higher.
-Look for the letters “UL” on a table, which mean that it’s been through independent testing for weight bearing and other criteria.
-Look at the end-plate of the table, which should be slightly recessed, or advertised as having a ‘Reiki plate’, in order for therapists to position their feet or knees under it when sitting at the end.
-Make sure you get a cleaning solution that won’t break down or damage the surface of your table—you’ll be cleaning it often, and hopefully for many years