Buying a massage table will probably be one of the biggest purchases you will make as a massage therapist. The price of a massage table ranges anywhere from $250 up to $4,000. Often you are required to get one while in massage school, and yet there is usually little or no advice given on how to choose the correct one.
There are many different types of practices, different personal needs and different types of clients. While there are a variety of massage tables, choosing the best style for you does not have to be daunting – consider the following before purchasing a massage table:
- Portable or Fixed – Will you be doing out-calls or will you be working strictly out of an office? A portable table can be folded and carried about, while a fixed table is heavy, stable and, for all practical purposes, unmovable. Many massage therapists choose to have a portable table, even though they have an office, because occasionally they do out-calls or they use multiple offices. This means constant setting up and breaking down, which is impossible with a fixed table.
- Price – The cost of a massage table will probably weigh heavy in making your choice. Are you a student just starting out? School is expensive enough without the added burden of a high cost massage table. Perhaps this is a second table, purchased after you have been in practice for a while. One option you have is to purchase a less expensive table while in school, and then resell it to an incoming student after graduation. By then you will know more about what features work for you and may be more able to make a better selection. You may be tempted by the lure of a low-cost mass-market table, but low cost can also mean poor quality and the lack of a manufacturer’s warrantee.
- Table Height and Width – The size of your table may not seem to matter all that much, but the wrong size can wreak havoc with body mechanics. A table too narrow or too wide, too tall or too short can have you in pain in no time at all. Tables come in widths anywhere from 28 to 35 inches, and range in heights of 20 to 36 inches. The width is not adjustable, but tables generally have an adjustment of about ten inches, which helps accommodate not only you as a massage therapist, but also allows for differences you may encounter in client size. If you are 5’4” tall or less, you wouldn’t want to get a table wider than 29 inches, and if you are 5’10” or taller, anywhere from 27 to 33 inches is a good width. As a general rule, your average table height should fall somewhere around your hip joint, with some allowance for the size of your average client.
- Thickness of Padding – This comes under the heading of client comfort. It may also determine the long-term quality of your table. You want your clients to feel like they are lying on a comfortable mattress, not a plank of plywood. And, thick foam padding holds up longer and shows less wear and tear than something lightweight and thin. Many companies also offer various firmnesses of padding, from extra-firm to plush. Some companies also offer firmness zones, allowing for less firm foam in the breast area of the table. The firmness you choose also depends on the type of massage you will be doing. Sports massage may require something more firm, while prenatal massage might be less so.
- Weight – If you choose a fixed table, weight is not as important as when choosing a portable table. In a fixed table you want stability, not portability. A portable table can weigh anywhere from 22 to 30 pounds or more depending on the size and material it is made with. A good solid fixed table could weigh 150 to 300 pounds. In both cases those made with wood are generally heavier, those made from aluminum will be a few pounds lighter. If you are getting a portable table, take into consideration how you will be using it. Will it be mostly for out-calls where you will need to be carrying the table up and down flights of stairs, or on public transportation? You may want to invest in a table cart, which can mean less wear and tear on your back, but can also be more of a hassle getting it in and out of a car or other form of transportation.
- Durability – If you are spending a lot of money on your table, you want to make sure it will last a long time. A frame made of hard wood like Maple or Birch will last longer than a softer wood such as Pine. Some companies are now using eco-friendly Bamboo for the table frames. Some fabrics are more durable than others. You want something that is easy to clean and will stand up to a lot of use. In the early days of massage therapy, table fabric was either cloth or leather, but now there are many synthetics that are soft, easy to clean and made using environmentally safe techniques.
Choosing the right table for you is an important decision, and these six considerations will help you make that choice. If you are still in school, pay close attention to the tables that are used for students. Schools want durable, sturdy tables that stand up to a lot of use and are cost effective. They also generally have a wide range of heights and widths to accommodate the many sizes and shapes of students. They are also concerned about safety and choose tables that won’t collapse because of weak hinges or poor construction.
Take your time and choose wisely. The right massage table is second only to your talent and skill as a massage therapist.
www.massage-tools.com, Massage Table Options to Consider Before Purchasing Your Table, Massage-Tools.com, Inc., 2008.
www.bodyworkmall.com, Buying A Massage Table: 10 Points to Consider, BodyWorkMall.com, Inc., 2008.
www.healingenergies-at-londonwest.com, Massage Table – Purchase Guidance, Healing Energies at Londonwest, 2008.