Taking the High Road – Assisting Clients On and Off the Treatment Table

The most common practice in the massage room is to direct the client to the massage room, leave, and come back when the client is on the table. Post massage, the same practice occurs in reverse. However, best practice is to assist the client on and off the table.

Benefits for assisting the client on the table include:

  1. View the client’s lower extremities weight bearing, to check for varicose veins.
  2. Reduce liability of client slipping or tipping the table.
  3. Give the therapist a visual assessment of client’s mobility.
  4. Allow proper placement and alignment of the client.

Benefits for assisting client off the table include:

  1. Safe reorientation of client to an active alert state. When assisting the client to a sitting position, stabilize the person by holding steady at the elbow. Lower the table (if electric), or put a stool under the client’s feet.
  2. Remove product on feet. This is the perfect opportunity to wipe off massage product on the plantar surface of the feet.
  3. While keeping contact, move to the client’s posterior with hands on shoulders. Give the client instructions to take a deep breath, look around the room and wiggle toes.
  4. Summary of session and planning. While the client is reorienting, knead the shoulders (trapezius), give a short synopsis of what was done and a plan for future treatments. (Also known as point of sale.)
  5. Time Management. Assisting the client to a sitting position and off the table allows the therapist to keep appointments running on time.
  6. Lower Liability. This process reduces the liability for slips and falls.

Draping for client assist on and off the table:

  1. Using the top sheet, bring the bottom edge (feet) to the top edge (head), leaving it neatly folded on the table.
  2. Ask the client to wrap the sheet around them with the top-bottom edges above the breast at armpit level. Leave the side edges to one side.
  3. As they are instructed to sit on the table, lift the back of the wrap so they aren’t sitting on it.

Client assist on and off the table gives the massage therapist opportunities to assess the client’s lower extremities, and mobility. If this seems to be a drastic change, try implementing the assistance up and off the table first. Best practice may take a commitment on the massage therapist’s part to implement the change for time management and a safer work environment.



Susan Beck, MTD, NCTMB, LMT

Susan is the Program Coordinator for the Massage Therapy Program at Idaho State University. You may contact Susan at becksus2@isu.edu.

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[Photos courtesy of Susan Beck.]