Many therapists working in the holistic and beauty industry carry out repetitive work, sometimes five or six days a week, so it’s no wonder that we often hear of people having to reduce the amount they do due to injury. What can we do to protect ourselves and ensure we have a long and happy work life?
The first step is obviously safe practice. If working from a clinic or salon make sure the therapy couch/chair/table is at an optimum height for you so you don’t have to slouch or stretch. Be mindful of your posture – are you sitting tall with feet firmly grounded on the floor? Are you moving as you massage rather than trying to complete a whole treatment from a static position? Small changes such as bending your knees and using your weight behind your strokes rather than getting all the pressure from your wrists and fingers can protect your joints.
Similarly, if you are a mobile therapist, take the time to set up so you are comfortable. How many times do we begin a treatment thinking it will be fine to sit on the floor or a low stool but after several minutes realise we’re already getting uncomfortable? By the end of the treatment you hobble to your feet, no feeling in your legs, and stumble out of the door. Most of us have done it. Not good for ourselves and it will probably mean the treatment we give isn’t the best. If in doubt change the set up as it’s simply not worth carrying out a treatment to the detriment of your own body and health.
It’s also important to know your own weaknesses and protect yourself. For me, following an unfortunate argument with someone’s shopping trolley, breaking my wrist several years ago means I can no longer carry out massage or reflexology all day, everyday. I decided to branch out into natural nail care and CND Shellac to reduce the workload on my wrist. Yes, I’ve been accused of ‘selling out’ and ‘going over to the dark side of beauty’. Well, you know what – I like it over here and I know my limitations so it works perfectly for me (and my clients).
If you know you have a weakness then adapt, after all, we adapt the treatments we give to each of our client’s needs so we should also be looking at adapting how we work to make it easier for ourselves. Massage therapists could look for alternatives to using hands such as ‘no hands massage’ or hot stones. Reflexologists could learn finger free techniques. If, as a therapist, you have a bad back, find ways to change your routine to suit you whilst still giving an effective treatment.
Equally important is keeping yourself fit and healthy – something many of us, me included, are often guilty of neglecting. Exercise that strengthens your inner core muscles such as Pilates can be invaluable at helping to improve your posture and make it less likely that you injure yourself.
Finally, what do you do for yourself? How do you unwind? I’ve found cycling helps to stretch tight muscles and empties the mind. It also gives me time to myself which, however busy we are, is important as it will help us stay healthy, relaxed, sane and able to continue this rewarding job.
And, don’t forget, therapists need treatments too…when did you last have one? This is definitely one of my guilty pleasures as I make sure I have at least three different treatments a month 🙂
Therapist self care is so important. How do you look after and protect yourself?
I was originally asked to write this post for a therapy training centre in October 2013 but it has since been updated.