How to Choose Your Portable Massage Table
Whether you’re a newly-qualified or established massage therapist, a massage table is the most crucial piece of equipment to you’ll invest in. Purchasing a high quality massage table is key, when it comes to providing the best possible service and maintaining client loyalty. You want your clients to feel comfortable and relaxed. But with so many different styles available, how do you choose the right massage table for your needs? Below, we’ll explore the key features to look for when choosing a portable massage table.
Portable massage tables typically weigh around 16kg or less – one that’s light enough for you to lift and carry. If you intend to work as soley as mobile therapist, the weight of your table should be your main concern and you probably would want a couch that weighs less than 15kg. Some of our lightest massage couches weight just 11.5kg. If you’ll be working primarily in a clinic, you can choose a slightly heavier table, since you’ll only need to move it between rooms. A massage table carry bag is a good investment and all of our Affinity Portable tables include a carry bag.
For the sake of your posture and the effectiveness of your treatments, always choose a height-adjustable table. Some treatments require you to raise or lower your table; if you don’t have this functionality, you’ll find yourself over-stretching. A height range of 26-32 inches suits most people. For efficiency, choose a table you can fold down without readjusting the height.
Height-adjustable massage tables come in two types: twist-knob and push-button. Wooden tables have a twist-knob design which can be fiddly, since you have to unscrew the knob, remove and relocate the strut, then replace the knob. Aluminium massage tables have a push-button design which is much quicker and easier to use. You simply press the button and click it back into place at your desired height.
Flat or Lifting?
A lifting massage couch has a backrest you can raise or lower; a flat massage couch does not. The design you choose depends on the types of treatments you’ll be offering. For example, during reflexology and beauty treatments, your client may need to sit upright or lean back. An adjustable backrest will provide comfort and support during treatment.
Portable massage tables with lifting backrests tend to be heavier, so think carefully about whether you need this feature.
Width of the table
When deciding on table width, you must consider your height, what treatments you’ll be offering, and how often you’ll need to move your table.
If you’re under five feet, four inches tall and you plan to offer intensive treatments like sports massage, choose a slightly narrower table. This will enable you to apply pressure during the massage without stretching awkwardly. For holistic treatments that require less pressure, a wider table should be fine no matter your height. Avoid any massage table over 30 inches wide (unless you’re exceptionally tall!) as you’ll end up over-stretching.
Of course, clients have different body shapes and sizes. If you’re concerned a narrower massage couch will be uncomfortable, choose a contoured table or one with a face cradle and arm rest. These designs will give your clients more room and support your posture.
The width of your table also impacts how easy it is to fold, lift and carry – important if you’re a mobile practitioner. Aim to strike a balance between your needs and your clients’.
Wood or Aluminium?
Portable massage couches are either made of aluminium or wood. You probably have a preference in terms of looks but remember that functionality is more important.
Wooden massage tables look nice (like the tables in a luxury spa) although they are typically heavier and more time consuming to set up. Aluminium, however, is strong but lightweight. An aluminium massage table will stand up to your client’s body weight and your massage pressure, while also being easier to carry.
Breathe Hole or Face Cradle
A breathe hole is a cutout where your client rests his or her face. A face cradle is a horseshoe-shaped cushion that you attach to the end of your table. When choosing between the two, consider your clients’ body position/alignment and comfort.
You’ll find that a breathe hole shortens your massage table by about four inches. This isn’t ideal for taller clients, as their feet will hang over the end of the table. It will affect your treatments too; the client’s “scrunched” position will make it harder for you to access the rotator cuff muscles, scapula and neck. Some clients also find breathe holes claustrophobic.
A massage table with a “repositionable” face cradle and arm rest is better for your clients and you. Such a table will comfortably accommodate clients of all heights in the correct position.
Reiki End Panels
Some massage tables have plywood struts between the legs. You should avoid these tables if you intend to sit, as they make it difficult for you to perform seated treatments. With a strut in the way, you can’t fit your knees under the table, so you’ll find yourself leaning forward awkwardly.
Instead, choose a massage table with reiki end panels. These allow you to fit your knees under the table while sitting with your back straight.
Foam Padding and Vinyl
Padding and upholstery are important in terms of client comfort, the effectiveness of your treatments, and the longevity of your portable massage couch.
Don’t be tempted by cheap vinyl as it will easily tear and get scratched. Backed vinyl is much better quality, offering flexibility and strength. To test the quality, pinch and twist the vinyl; backed vinyl doesn’t “give” too much and quickly returns to its original position.
There are two types of vinyl: PVC and PU. PVC is fairly hard-wearing, is oil/waterproof and can be easily wiped clean. However, PVC tends to look and feel cheap. PU feels more luxurious against bare skin but is still easy to clean.
As for the foam padding, look for a table with a “sandwich” of three foam layers of different densities. This will offer the most comfort and support for your clients. Thicker, softer foam is ideal for holistic treatments and promotes relaxation. Firmer foam padding is best for sports massage where you apply more pressure.
Strength and Stability
The strength of a massage table is determined by its working weight (also called dynamic load). Working weight refers to the amount of evenly-spread weight the table can take; the standard is around 210kg, which is plenty for the average client.
When choosing a portable massage table, you should manually check its stability. Cross your palms at the corner of the table and push across it. If the table wobbles more than an inch or two, it won’t be stable enough to safely accommodate your clients.
Understanding how to choose a portable massage table is the key to client satisfaction and your success as a therapist. Never skimp on the quality of your table. Choose a table that offers the optimal balance of functionality, versatility, comfort and support.