One of the most important decisions you’ll make in your independent massage therapy practice is finding the perfect massage table. There are so many tables on the market today, online and in retail stores. It can seem overwhelming when it comes time to make a purchase. We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to choosing a massage table, so that you can feel confident that you’re making the right choice. After all, your reputation, the well-being of your clients, and the quality of the massage experience rests in part on the table that you purchase.
1. Make a plan
The first thing you need to do is spend some time imagining, planning, and thinking about your practice and how you’ll be using the table. Are you just starting out as a student or a newly licensed therapist? Will you be mostly traveling and moving around to find clients and go where they are? Do you already have an established practice and are wishing to upgrade or buy a second table? What is your practice going to look like in a year, two years? Remember, the massage table you purchase now could be with you for years to come. Maybe you want to get a portable table to start with, and save up for a high-quality table when you have a stationary practice. Take the time to write down your plans for today and for the years to come. Envision your ideal outcome and then figure out the steps to get you there.
2. Stick to your budget
What is the most you’re able to spend? Don’t skimp, but don’t hurl yourself into debt if you don’t have to, either. Figure out a budget you’re comfortable with and stick to it. Consider all of the costs involved, including shipping, accessories, and a carrying case if necessary. You may find a good package deal that includes all of these things. Or you may choose to save up and make purchases individually over the course of a few months until you have everything you need, at a pace you can afford.
3. Your comfort
Whatever table you choose, don’t neglect ergonomic factors and your own comfort. You’ll want to consider at least three things: Carrying weight, table height, and table width.
A good rule of thumb as far as maximum carrying capacity is between 22 and 30 pounds. You can trim extra pounds by going with aluminum legs rather than wooden-leg tables. You can always use a table cart if your table is extra heavy, but it’s also an extra hassle when setting up, driving across country, or hopping on a plane. Consider an adjustable height table or one that can be custom built to fit your height. For table width, 28-32 inches is recommended. Too narrow, clients could feel cramped or worse, fall off! However, if you go too wide, then it’s hard to move around. Consider your room size and tables with rounded corners to determine your table width and to improve ergonomics. Some table models feature, as extra accessories, end and side extensions that will lengthen the table by 10 to 12 inches and widen it by six to eight inches for large, wide clients. (Keep in mind that the larger the table, the more it will weigh… so many things to consider, we know!)
4. Weight limits and safety
Imagine a new client, a little on the heavy side, comes in to get a massage and halfway through the massage the table collapses! Embarrassing, right? Be sure to choose a table that is strong and stable. Check for construction elements such as reinforcements, quality of craftsmanship, and the kind of hardwood, aluminum, or plastic that is used. Also consider the table’s weight rating: You want one that can withstand at least 500 pounds of downward applied force.
Do you specialize in pregnancy massage or Reiki? Depending on your areas of specialty, you may decide to choose a table that matches your techniques. Some tables have breast recesses and adjustable abdominal support for pregnancy massage; others are built with a thicker plywood top and an inverted truss to provide extra support in the middle of the table for sports massage; some tables can lie flat on the floor for shiatsu or other techniques that require the client to be close to the ground; and still others feature adjustable legs for ease in performing reflexology and spa treatments. A massage practitioner may want end plates that have inserts for an armrest where a Reiki practitioner will likely want a table without the end plates so they can be seated closer to the client. Think about your practice and certifications that you may be working on, so that your table or accessories will accommodate your specific techniques.
The right table is just the beginning! Accessories can help you take the massage experience to the next level. Research the types of accessories that are available, and make a plan for what accessories you absolutely must have, and those that can go on a wish list. Armrests, specialty face cradles, and cut outs for pregnancy massage only come with certain massage tables. Knowing what types of massage table accessories you need will help you with making your purchase. A few notes on these accessories:
Bolster – Inquire about the quality of the bolster that comes with your massage table. Make sure it’s not a cheap, flimsy bolster that is thrown in with your purchase.
Face cradle – Choose a well-padded, quality face cradle with a good locking mechanism. A bad locking mechanism could mean injury to your clients neck, which is bad news!
Carrying case – This is your living! If your table is dirty, ripped, or damaged, you won’t feel good about your investment, and your clients may not enjoy their massage as much.
7. Shop around
Massage-table packages can range in price from under $250 to well over $700. You might find the same table at a slightly different price or in a package, sale, or shipping deal, depending on the store, catalog, or website. Are you getting a good value? Consider the overall product quality, the retail price, shipping costs, tax, and additional accessories you will need. Durability and resale value is also a part of this calculation. The task can be daunting so ask a good friend or fellow practitioner to help you look around for a deal on the perfect massage table for you.
8. Quality and warranty
Last but not least, a good company will offer a warranty on a quality table. This may be important to you in the future. A lifetime warranty on a skillfully crafted table could be worth the extra investment in the long run. The warranty should offer to repair or replace the table for as long as you own it. Ask plenty of questions about how the warranty works and what you’ll need to do if your table needs repairs. The customer-service department should be able to answer your questions about all the things we’ve listed in this blog post. Pay attention! The way you’re treated during your shopping experience will most likely be the kind of customer service you’ll be receiving down the road when your table needs to be maintained or replaced under warranty.
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We would love to hear your recommendations on tables, brands, and stores for finding the perfect massage table!