Why the massage therapist applies correct body mechanics could enhance the effectiveness of massage therapy?
What is body mechanics?
Body Mechanics is refers to being able to maintain correct body positions during any movement in daily life of people, which include how people hold the bodies when standing, sitting, bending, sleeping, lifting and carrying (Ross T, MD and S. Ryason, LMT). Constant or repeated miner stresses over a long period of time are often cause poor or faulty body mechanics which could lead to serious injury. The spine is subjected to abnormal stresses over time that could lead to degeneration of spinal structures such as discs and joints, injury, and unnecessary wear and tear if people move incorrectly and under unsafely. This is the importance of learning the principals of proper body mechanics. Its easily be incorporated into daily life of people and will save people from discomfort and back pain.
Body mechanics could enhance by ergonomics which is the process of changing the posture or environment of people. The most important of good body mechanics including aware the body position during daily activities, using proper posture to lifting and carrying, changing the desk height in working area and doing these all the time to avoiding from injury and pain.
A neutral position of spine means good posture which not too rounded forward and not arched back too far. Practice more would turn the bad position to good and it would become nature.
Millions of people are spending most of the time on their feet therefore people should avoid standing in one position for a long time period by changing the position and doing some stretching exercises to minimize the risk of injury.
People spend about one-third of time in bed, so how bodies are positioned during sleep is playing an important role. To maintain a neutral spine, people need to sleeping on a firm mattress and put a pillow behind or between knees to keep spine in the right position.
How the correct body mechanics could improve the effectiveness of massage techniques?
The table height
Utilizing the correct body mechanics can help to perform the strokes efficiently during the massage session. The greatest advantage of body contact with the massage table is that the practitioner has the freedom to engage the weight of his or her upper body to apply greater leverage during the execution of every stroke.
The practitioner uses the weight of upper body as a structural component of the strokes
It is a common error that keeping the upper extremity far from the body while applying massage strokes, please correct this bad habit. massage therapists are prone to injury and greatly consume their stamina.
The optimum balance and stability will be achieved by contacting with the table, positioning the feet correctly (not in one line), slightly shifting the centre of gravity anteriorly, and keeping both hands closer to the body. Additionally, It will allow practitioners to use the weight of their upper bodies to apply leverage as a structural component of every massage technique.
Adding the weight of your upper body to your work offers yet another great advantage. The correct body mechanics to use the weight of the upper body as a structural component in the execution of strokes is the only way to apply the more complex massage techniques can be correctly and effectively, for example, effleurage with unequally distributed pressure, friction-kneading, or scrolling kneading, and so on. The last advantage of utilising the upper body weight into the strokes is that the fluidity of the strokes is increased.
How the correct body mechanics could benefit the massage therapist?
Height of the table
The correct table height is a key factor in minimizing body stress on muscles and joints while massaging. Additionally, the table is the practitioners’ greatest ally, they should try to use it in any way possible, instead of avoiding contact with it (Ross T, MD and S. Ryason, LMT.). If practitioners rely only on the two-point system (lower limbs) to support themselves, while physically labour for hours, they will exhaust their lower back and gluteal muscles. Consequently, excessive tension in these muscles will be progressively built up. As a consequence, vertical compression pressure starts to be distributed unequally between the intervertebral discs, especially affecting the lower lumber vertebral discs. Wear and tear on the compressed intervertebral discs is inevitable in long term. Keeping the constant contact with the working table, and never put both feet in one line while conducting the strokes. Three point supporting system provides significantly greater balance and stability than two-point system. As a result, the lower back muscles such as erector spinae muscles and the gluteal group do not need to overwork to constantly fight gravity in order to stabilize the body during the massage strokes. These muscles work more efficiently in an isotonic mode (i.e., contraction-relaxation) than an isometric mode (i.e., constant tension).
The centre of gravity of the practitioner
As mentioned above, if the practitioner employs body positioning with knees bent, no body contact with the table, and feet arranged in one line, his or her centre of gravity shifts more posteriorly along the horizontal axis. The lower back, abdominal, and gluteal muscles, as well as pelvic floor muscle group are greatly affected. To use body mechanics correctly, the practitioner should shift the centre of gravity anteriorly along the horizontal axis by slightly leaning the upper body forward the client during the use of massage strokes. By using this method, he or she will find this can save more stamina and less force to be used by the upper limb muscles. Simultaneously. the lower back muscles will not need to fight gravity.
The practitioner keeps hands close to the body
Keeping hands far from the body is a common mistake which contributes to the practitioner’s fatigue and exhaustion. In this wrong position, the lower back muscle group of the practitioner needs to increase tension in order to fight against gravity and maintain the posture, which pushes the body forward (Massage Bodywork 2008). Try to imagine that someone needs to lift a heavy object. one would instinctively try to keep the upper extremities as close as possible to the body to increase leverage and reduce the chance of injury. Likewise, an electrician or surgeon these professions do not work with their upper extremities extended away from the body. It is because this would increase fatigue themselves and decrease precision of the hands for the performance of necessary tasks.
How to improve and implement the correct body mechanics into your work environment?
First, when preparing for a massage therapy session, make sure you’re working at a proper table height. A higher table requires less low back bending and a more normal wrist angle is achieved. In contract, if the table is too low, it causes massage therapists to bend over more, shifting their center of gravity forward and stressing their lower back. Moreover, more wrist extension is needed and increase the stress on the intra-wrist structures, reducing grip strength.
To calculate proper table height, it is suggested to start with the table at half of your own height. Then, adjust slightly up if you have longer legs and slightly down if you have a longer torso.
Place your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointed forward. Try using an asymmetric stance, where one foot is forward and the other back. When massaging, face the direction of the stroke with your toes, hips, shoulders and head aligned, and remember that your back foot should remain on the floor.
Massage therapists should use the arm which follows the direction of the stroke, at the same time, with the forward foot matching the arm being used (Work Smarter, Not Harder: Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists 2014). For example, if the massage stroke is going left, use the left arm and put your left foot forward. In addition, generating pressure from your core by leaning on the client is better than pushing with muscles.
Whenever possible, massage therapists should use an uphill stroke. If your stroke is over the hill, there is no mechanical advantage and push harder is needed to maintain pressure on the client. Using bolsters is a great way to create hills you can lean into, and be sure to stack your joints, as bending your elbow requires effort in your triceps.
When you use your forearm, keep your hand, fingers and wrist relaxed. Furthermore, the upper arm should not be more than 45 degrees away from the body. If you need to make a longer stroke, take a step forward and then continue the stroke, don’t reach out with the upper arm.
Massage therapists use their forearm, supported fingers or fist when considering ways they can generate force during a massage therapy session, steering clear of both the thumb and the elbow.
Using counter pressure is also a great way to increase the force you apply to your clients. For example, using the table for leverage, you can grasp your massage table and pull back or up. Alternatively, instead of pulling with your arms or shoulder muscles, using your own body weight to pull by grasping and leaning back.
Barbara Fry. Massage Bodywork. 2008 http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1577/Body-Mechanics (Accessed December 31, 2017)
Ross T, MD and S. Ryason, LMT. Body Mechanics. (n.d.) https://www.scienceofmassage.com/2009/11/body-mechanics/# (Accessed December 27, 2017)
Work Smarter, Not Harder: Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists. https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/2901/work-smarter-not-harder-body-mechanics-for-massage-therapists (Accessed December 29, 2017)