Massage therapy can be a lucrative career option for many people interested in healthcare and holistic medicine. Despite the many exciting opportunities, the massage therapy field has a HIGH burn out rate. Between the 3rd and 5th year following graduation, 50% - 88% of people will have burned out and will no longer be working in manual therapy. The reason for this high percentage is because of the physicality of the job as well as the need to stay mentally grounded. Occupational burn-out takes a toll on both the body and mind, so a personal self-care routine and other small considerations are vital for longevity in this career.
Here are five tips that will help you have a long-lasting career in massage therapy.
Tip #1 - Body Mechanics Are Everything
Work smarter, not harder. Gravity is your friend and body mechanics are key.
Think about how many massages you want to do in a day, how many days a week are you doing them? You want to be feeling as good going into your last massage as you do your first one, and the key is to move your body properly.
Just because your client wants deep pressure does not mean you have to kill your shoulder to do it. Simply getting into a deeper lunge or squat and using gravity to add the pressure will get the same results without having such a negative effect on the therapist. Use your legs to steadily ground yourself, bend your knees into a squat or lunge position and let your own body weight slowly sink your elbow/fingers deeper into the tissue.
Tip #2 - Stack Those Joints
Don't overstress your joints.
Take notice of your wrists as you work. Are you letting them relax when you go in with the forearm, or are you stiff? Do you like to use thumb pressure but then notice pain after a while? Stacking your joints plays into the importance of body mechanics. When you work, your joints should be nicely aligned, so the force is evenly distributed, putting less stress on the joint. When using your thumbs, try keeping them tucked into toward the hand. Make a fist, utilizing the pointer finger for support and keep your thumb in line with the wrist.
"The ancient Greeks used massage widely to maintain health and ensure lasting beauty." - Salvo D. Ed
Tip #3 - Mix It Up
Learn new modalities.
It is already required for LMTs to get continued education credits. Why not try learning a new style to add to your treatment routine. There are over 80 unique modalities to learn, don't be afraid to try new things. The beauty of the field is your ability to change direction without changing careers. Bored with therapeutic massage? Try lymphatic drainage, or Thai, or any of the wonderful styles out there for you. Go to conventions, consider volunteering in the community, do a chair massage event! Adding some variety will keep you feeling inspired about your work, helping you last longer in the field.
Tip #4 - Do Some Self Stretches
Take the advice you give to clients.
Many of us will recommend certain stretching routines to our clients for homework. Just like them, it's important for us to stay limber as well. Stretching before and after sessions can help you stay energized and loose. It can also be a good time to practice grounding, getting you mentally ready for your next client.
Tip #5 - Get Regular Body Work
Talk the talk, walk the walk.
When your client asks how often you get a massage, what will you say? If you are recommending them to come routinely, shouldn't you be getting routine massages as well? Taking time to prioritize your own health and self-care is a huge factor in career longevity. You can talk to other LMT's in your network and do trades, you could also check in with your local massage school and see if they have a student clinic like ours. However it happens, make sure you are taking the time to get your own bodywork.
Help Yourself So You Can Help Others
Make time to replenish your body, mind, and spirit. It's possible for you to have a long nourishing career in the world of manual therapy. By prioritizing your time and health, you can set yourself up for long term success.
Comment below with your own tips and tricks that have helped you in your career journey!