Monday, January 24, 2011

Choosing a Massage Table

As the owner of a massage supply company, I am often asked, "What's the best massage table for me to buy?"  People are often surprised when their inquiry is met with a series of return questions from me.  My first question is, "What do you plan to use the table for?"   It's pretty amazing how many different answers  I receive.  Sometimes it's a bodywork student or recent graduate who needs a table immediately to learn and/or do bodywork and they are not sure what their practice will grow into. Sometimes it's a very specialized therapist who needs a table that can accomodate clients who use wheelchairs or have difficulty getting up on a table.  Sometimes it's a couple who want to massage each other in home once in a while.  Sometimes it's a patient who is doing prescribed physical therapy on a regular basis at home and needs the support of a table to do exercises as a bed is too soft and doesn't allow for limbs to hang over the sides as needed.  Sometimes it is someone who is recovering from eye surgery who must lay prone for 2 weeks.  The reasons people need a table are vast and so the answer to, "What's the best massage table?"  cannot be a one-answer-fits-all response!

So, I begin with, "What do you plan to use the massage table for?"  And then more questions...

Depending on the customer, I might ask:
  • Do you have a set location for your practice or will you be traveling with your table?  How often do you estimate you will be transporting your table and what is your method of transportation (i.e. your compact car, minivan,a plane, via UPS)?
  • What type of therapy do you think you will be doing?  Deep tissue?  Reiki? Thai massage? A combination of massage and aesthetics, like skin care? Etc.
  • How tall are you?  If you are transporting your table, how easy is it for you to carry and lift a table?
  • How long do you want to keep this table? Do you see yourself upgrading or adding a another table?
  • Are there any special features that you would like or need to have, such as an electric lift, breast or pregnancy recesses,  tilting options, etc.? 
  • What other related equipment do you think you will be purchasing for your practice or for your personal use within the next 3 years?
  • What budget limits would you like to set for your purchase?
  • How important are the esthetics and extra comforts of the table (like the color, the design, the thickness of the foam, arm rests, etc.)?
  • Where do you intend to store your table?
Once we determine the answers to these questions, we can better assess your options. Massage tables can range from under $200 to several thousand dollars; they can be expected to last for a year or two to fifteen years or more, depending on the make and model and your level of usage.  It's worth taking the time to make sure you are investing in the appropriate table!

As a therapist myself, I find it a bit unethical to steer you into more of a table than you would really need or want.  For instance, I just had a woman call about an electric lift stationary table for her husband who has had a stroke and needed the table for in-home physical therapy.  She was all set to buy the more expensive model, which boasts curved legs; she wasn't aware that the table also came in less-expensive (by several hundred dollars) model that had a slightly less sleek, straight-leg design that still offered her all of the different features that she needed for the table's function.  "Why would they offer the two different tables?" she asked and I explained that often spas and salons preferred the curved legs as it looked a little more modern and esthetically nice, but it probably wouldn't be a big factor for her since it was going in her spare bedroom.  She also wanted to know if she should upgrade the upholstery, again at a cost of several hundred dollars, which I personally do not find necessary as the table use is limited to about 30 minutes a day by one person and will be covered with a sheet during use anyway.  Asking her all those questions allowed us to cut the costs of her expected price by many hundreds of dollars by eliminating features she did not need.

At the same time, when deciding on your table, we strongly recommend that you don't buy less than you need!  Naturally, if you are on a tight budget, that's harder to do.  However, if you are hoping to keep your table for at least 3-5 years, buying something like a no-name table from a big box store may be buying less than you need.  Say that no-name table is only $159, it has a one-year warranty, and it comes with a face rest.  Sounds like a great deal since you're really tight on money and just starting your practice.    A year and half later, your business has really picked up and you're really using that table a lot.  It is starting to squeak and wobble a little when your heavier clients get onto it. Then, a client accidentally pushes himself up on the face rest when he's getting up from the table and one of the shafts on the face rest breaks.  Where are you going to get a replacement for it?  This company doesn't sell just the face rest and it is not compatible with the face rest platforms of other brands since the holes for the face rest in your table are drilled 7" apart and are 1" in diameter. You probably need another table altogether now.  Is it worth it to buy another table like that for another $159?

  Let's say, instead, you  initially chose an economically-priced table from a reputable massage table company (like Earthlite's Inner Strength brand) and you paid $259.  The table's frame comes with a 5-year warranty, plus you get a face rest and a carrying case for that amount.  In a year and half's time, your practice is picking up (this time your table is holding up great and not squeaking or wobbling at all, but you know you could call someone if it did).  The extra $100 you spent to have this table is less than the income from two treatments and you can rest easy knowing you have a least 3 1/2 more years of warranty-covered usage. Now you are ready to start adding extra special touches to your massage experience.  You weren't able to afford the premium table with the extra foam when you first started, but there are things you can now add that will make your perfectly good, current table more comfortable.   A fleece pad to cover the table and the face rest, adding extra cushioning, runs around $45. A table warmer with a thick fleece runs about $85, providing cushioning and cozy warmth.  A portable arm sling is about $20 so your clients can let their arms hang down in front of the table with support.  Suddenly, with just a little more financial investment, your basic table is now luxurious, and you were able to add to it over time, thereby spreading out the cost.

There are so many scenarios and options to explore when determining the "best massage table" to buy. Prepare yourself by knowing your needs, wants and expectations of  the equipment you plan to purchase and envision how you plan to use that equipment both for immediate and future use. Then, consult a knowledgeable salesperson and make sure they thoroughly weigh your answers to at least some of the questions listed above before they recommend anything to you.

If you would like to speak with us at Massage Market, please call and we would be happy to discuss your possibilities! We are available at (800)810-8324 or (941) 365-9118. We are open M-F from 9:30 am to 6 pm EST and Saturdays from 9:30 to 3:30.  I'm Lauren, the owner.  I've been a massage therapist for almost 16 years.  My friend and staff member, Susan, has been a therapist for 15 years.  Our third teammate is Donna, who knows a lot about massage and equipment; if she cannot answer your question immediately, she will ask me or Susan and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How To Use Essential Oils

Essential Oils are quickly gaining in popularity in bodywork and for personal/home use.  You don't have to be an expert to use these therapeutic and beautiful smelling oils.   Here a few of my answers when someone asks me, "How do I use essential oils?":

  • Add 4-6 drops per 4 ounces of unscented lotion and stir well.  Use in massage cream, lotion, or oil or body lotions (the purer the ingredients, the more you will be able to smell and enjoy the therapeutic qualities of the essential oil).  Favorite scents are lavender, citrus, patchouli, and rose for a lovely smelling lubricant.  Try essential oils like rosemary or tea tree for toning the skin.
  • Add 4-6 drops to a 4 oz. cobalt glass spray bottle filled with distilled or filtered water and 1/8 teaspoon of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or vodka (vodka has the least smell) for a great room or linen spray.
  • Add a few drops to a nebulizer or humidifier to disperse the aroma throughout your room.
  • Put about 6 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a pot of boiling water to steam clogged sinuses (extra caution must be used to prevent steam burns or spilling the hot water).
Precautions and contra-indications are listed on the individual pages of the Wyndmere Essential Oils that are available on the website.  Always ask your client or friends if they are allergic to anything before using essential oils.  (Note that a lot of people think that they are allergic or sensitive to certain scents because they have experienced the synthetic or "perfumy" version of the oils; honor this first and then, if the person is willing, allow them to try the essential oil with a short exposure to it (smelling the oil in the bottle or the lubricant with which it is blended.)  Never apply essential oils directly to the skin or mucous membranes.  Always dilute in a carrier oil, cream or lotion to apply oils topically. Test on a small patch of skin first, if you/your client chooses to try a new oil.

Essential oils are FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY.  Call the Poison Control Center if ingested.    Keep oils tightly closed and away from children and pets.  Essential oils are not to be used without seeking medical advice if pregnant, epileptic, or if you have high or low blood pressure.  Always keep away from the eyes.  Should oil get into the eyes, wash thoroughly with water for 15 minutes. 

No advice on this blog should serve as a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician. If you have any questions or concerns about using essential oils for medical or health purposes, always consult your physician before use.