You already have the two most important pieces of equipment you’ll need for your career as a massage therapist: your two hands. But for the massage professional, it helps to have the right gear. Here are some tips on massage equipment from Dr. Randy Swenson, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at NUHS, and head of the university’s Massage Therapy Certification Program.
Your biggest investment as an MT student and professional will be your massage table. A portable table is the most useful due to its flexibility. Look for a table made from high quality materials. The frame can be made of wood or aluminum, with a minimum surface width of 30 inches and a length of 72 inches. The table should adjust up or down from about 22 to 34 inches, and have a working weight capacity of approximately 450 pounds.
The table covering should be vinyl or non-cloth material for durability and so that it can be cleaned and disinfected between clients. There should be 2-3 inches of high-density foam padding on the surface for client comfort. The table also needs a headrest, and a multi-tilt headrest is the most versatile for client comfort.
You’ll want a carrying case for ease of transport and protection of your table when it’s not in use. You may also consider a table cart for transport if you plan on doing outcall massage.
Be sure to have at least one bolster you can use under your client’s knees or ankles. Other bolsters and pillows maybe helpful for the neck and chest.
Sheets & Blankets
To cover your table, you’ll want twin sheet sets with at least a 225-250 thread count. Lesser thread counts make the sheets too transparent, while higher thread counts can be very expensive. If you buy sheets using a cotton/polyester blend, a higher percentage of cotton will be softer.
Some companies make sheet sets specifically designed to fit massage tables. Flannel sheets are a nice option for winter or cold rooms. You can choose bright or restful colors for your sheets to match your setting and preference.
Students in the NUHS massage program, as well as interns working in the NUHS clinic, use regular Biotone Dual-Purpose Massage Creme. The reason for this is that it functions well, doesn’t degrade the covering on the table or the drapes/blankets, and cleans up well between clients. NUHS also has Biotone Hypoallergenic Massage Creme available for sensitive clients or therapists.
You will need a way to easily access your massage cream during the massage, without lifting both hands from your client. Most therapists have a preferential way to keep their massage cream close to them, such as the use of a pump bottle in a holster with a waist belt.
NUHS does not allow the use of oils since oils stain the drapes/blankets and can degrade the table coverings over time.
Music and Lighting
A portable music player is essential. The current trend is to use an electronic device such as an iPod so the music is continuous. There are many amplified speaker systems that an iPod will attach to easily. The music itself is better when it is relaxing and non-vocal. Some therapists enjoy recordings that include “natural sounds” like birds, the surf or a babbling brook.
Ideal lighting should be dimmable, non-fluorescent, sconce, or indirect light. A five-foot floor lamp works well.
Here are some optional but helpful tools that can provide a better massage experience for both the therapist and client:
- The therapist should be able to see a clock so that the massage concludes at the agreed time.
- A cleaner/disinfectant wipe should be available to wipe down the table cover between clients.
- Some therapists use a warm water bath for hot packs.
- Many therapists have a set of massage stones and a crock-pot for warming them to give hot stone massage. A way to diffuse a pleasant and restful aroma is common. Some therapists like to use candles, but candles are not allowed in many corporate settings. You might also explore aromatherapy diffusers.
- Towels are commonly used for added draping or clean up.
- Some therapists use a massage cream-warming device.
- A fleece pad on the table adds warmth and comfort. Some use an electrically heated fleece pad to warm the table in the winter.
- Students in the NUHS clinic wear scrubs and tennis shoes. Whatever your setting requires, be sure to wear clothes that are easily laundered and allow you to bend and move easily.
- Some therapists like hand tools for applying more firm pressure to muscles and connective tissues.
- A small fan is common to help move the air when the room is too warm, while a space heater is needed for some chilly rooms.
- A rolling, adjustable-height stool is very useful.
- A mirror in the room is handy when the client is dressing after the massage.