Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2011

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body awareness BY BARB FRYE FINE-TUNE YOUR TABLE HEIGHT Keep in mind there is no single correct height for every therapist, every client, or every type of treatment. The number one question asked in body mechanic workshops is, "How high should I set my table?" The common—and somewhat dated—answer is that the table height should reach the therapist's fingertips or first knuckle when the arms are hanging down. However, this rule does not take into consideration three key points: your body, your client's body, and the amount of force required for your treatment plan. First, your table should be set at a height that allows you to use your body weight, rather than excessive muscular effort, to apply force. If your table is set too high for the required treatment, such as deep-tissue work, you will tend to apply force with your upper body, using excessive muscular force in your shoulders and arms. Conversely, if your table is set too low and your treatment requires no force, your lower back will suffer. Therefore, before you adjust your table, factor in the kind of treatment you plan to execute. In general, your table should be set low for deep work (e.g., deep-tissue and sports massage; Image 1), mid-thigh for relaxation work (e.g., Swedish and hot stone therapy; Image 2), and higher for light-touch work (e.g., energy work and lymphatic drainage; Image 3). Next, before you adjust your table, determine the best table height for your body type. For example, if you have a long torso and short legs, consider a lower height. Conversely, if you have a short torso and long legs, then a higher table will serve you better. Finally, and most importantly, take into consideration your client's body size. Whether petite or large, your client's body will add height to your table, and you will want to allow for this when adjusting your table height. For example, when you are setting your table low for deep work, the surface of the client's body, not the table's top, should be your set point. Remember, we are not simply working with the table, but with the person on the table. Now you're ready to set your table height. Keep in mind, however, there is no single correct height for every therapist, every client, or every type of treatment. If you find you need to adjust your table once you begin your treatment and you do not have an electric lift table, stop the treatment session and adjust it. If necessary, wrap your client in a sheet or towel and help him or her off the table. You will only need to backtrack a few times to remember the importance of making the proper height adjustments before a session begins. 106 massage & bodywork september/october 2011

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