Help! Avoiding massage burn-out

From one end of the spectrum to the other, Therapists cans experience back problems, repetitive strain injury and carpel tunnel to general aches and tiredness from working a massage day.

Here are five steps that will minimise massage burn out and avoid wrist, hand and arm complaints for spa therapists.

Hand and arm daily exercises prior to and after a day of massage

Interlocking fingers (like in prayer) then pushing arms out (palm of hand facing away) you will feel the stretch in fingers and the palms. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat.

Hold hand out (with palm facing the ceiling) with other hand, hold fingers down giving a wrist stretch. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat on other hand.

Arm held across chest, other hand pulling further in to give arm and shoulder stretch. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat on other side

  • Circling wrists
  • Circling fingers
  • Circling thumbs
  • Circling shoulders

Incorporating forearm and elbows

As you progress within your career and gain further training and learn new techniques your massage will adapt and change too. You will learn how to incorporate your forearm and elbow in your routine, enabling you to reduce thumb and wrist work. This makes for a deeper and firmer massage and easier for you!

Techniques may include elbows around the scapula, forearm effleurages, forearm circling the hips, forearms effleurage trapezius and side of neck.

Forearms can also be used during the back of leg massages, particularly thigh areas and calf muscle and on triceps too.

Some independent training schools and colleges offer a ‘hands free’ massage courses which will preserve your treatment life as well as prevent injuries to you. Have a look at this link for further details.

Keep fit

Spa therapist and masseuse work is very physical and so maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help immensely in your work plus you will be practising what you preach. A swim, a run, a walk a couple of times a week will all help maintain your stamina in the treatment room and make your working life easier to manage.


Good posture is imperative in everyday life and massage is no exception. The couch should be waist height for the therapist. Any higher and all the work is coming from the shoulders and arms, the pressure won’t be as firm and you will suffer burn out. Too low and your back will suffer. Stooping will create a hunch like curve in the trapezius, and your neck will ache from having your head continually looking down as well as lower back problems due to overly stretching the spine.

Waist height is perfect, the body weight is evenly proportioned, the work comes from the whole body as your legs disperse pressure from one to the other as you effleurage your client. Pressure will be firmer and mixing up finger, thumb and hand pressure with that of forearm and elbows will allow you to sustain the massage, give a great service without feeling too pooped at the end of the day!

Have a massage

Very often it’s a case of ‘the cobblers children, never have shoes!’ or in our case ‘the masseuse, never gets a massage!’ If your company allows go in on your day off now and then and get a colleague to massage you. Likewise, visit another salon or spa and indulge yourself. This will remind you what it feels like to be on the receiving end.


Schedules department and spa receptionist should try and mix up the days so that massage is evenly spread between colleagues, that there is chance to recuperate by slotting manicures, pedicures and facials in between massages.

Massages appointment time in 50 minute or 80 minute slots is better as it gives 10 minutes turnaround time allowing the therapists to have a quick slurp of a drink or nibble, refreshing his or herself readily for the next client.

Time to relax

At the end of a busy massage day a good meal, a hot bath and an early night will be the best course of action.  Put your feet up and relax!