Self-Care Starts Here

By Karrie Osborn

Did you know that up to 50 percent of massage therapists leave the profession within the first two years of practice, largely due to the physical demands of the work?1 That’s a lot of people giving up on a career for something that’s largely preventable. In this field, self-care is truly a critical component of how successful you will be as a therapist. Don’t undervalue its importance.
Don’t Lose Sight
We’ve seen veteran massage therapists get complacent with their self-care and pay the price with injury and early retirement. And we’ve seen young therapists forget the lessons of their massage schooling and damage their shoulders, elbows, wrists, or thumbs early on by working consecutive 10-hour days without proper concern and care for the needs of their bodies.
But we’ve also seen many of you work hard to maintain good self-care routines. And we hope you continue to embrace what self-care means—from your body to your mind to your spirit and the spirit of your practice—and be proud of yourself for taking the time to make it happen. Your body, and your career, will thank you for it.
So, How’s Your Self-Care?
It doesn’t take much to veer off the self-care path. Is this you?
You don’t schedule your own massage therapy or bodywork as often as
you should.
Whether it’s your first year as a therapist or your 10th, bodywork should be part of your self-care routine. Pay for your services or trade for your services, but schedule frequent sessions of massage, bodywork, and other complementary therapies you find helpful. Write your own self-care into your appointment schedule, and practice what you preach!
You don’t give yourself the proper downtime between clients.
You might be able to handle clients back to back, but what are your limits? At what point does your work suffer and your body start to fatigue? Are you giving the last client of the day the same quality massage you gave the first client? How much time do you schedule between sessions, above and beyond changing the sheets and washing your hands? It’s important to give yourself time to grab a small snack, get a breath of fresh air, have an aromatherapy moment, do a yoga pose, or anything else you need to regroup and reground yourself.
You sometimes compromise your boundaries in order to fill your appointment book.
We all understand the desire to help clients (and an urgency to pay the rent), so there’s a good chance a number of massage therapists might say they’ve neglected a self-care boundary or two throughout their careers to squeeze in that last-minute client (even though they’re exhausted), or booked some overly long days to accommodate clients’ schedules. It’s not always easy to turn clients away, but healthy scheduling always proves best for both client and therapist.
You sometimes compromise body mechanics in order to help clients.
Have you taxed your body to the point of pain in an attempt to “fix” a client who wasn’t finding relief? Compromising proper body mechanics is never a good idea. Make smart choices and maintain good physical boundaries. Proper ergonomics isn’t something that can be neglected if you want a healthy practice.

No matter where you fall on the self-care spectrum, use the following pages as inspiration for new ways to stay in the game.
Don’t let the most important thing you can do for your career be the last thing on the to-do list. Reinvigorate your self-care routine today. It’s the number one thing you can do to prolong your career.
1. Entry-Level Analysis Project, “Final Report,” accessed March 2017,

Karrie Osborn is senior editor at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Contact her at