Practice Without Pain

By Gloria Coppola
[Savvy Self-Care]

The question isn’t “Where do you hurt?” It’s “Why do you hurt?” Occupational hazards can strike us all. Even if we are taught proper body mechanics, if we don’t apply them to our work, we are setting ourselves up for a career with discomfort or pain. 

As a continuing education provider and former massage school owner, I have spent countless hours helping students correctly perform massage. Unfortunately, I have also spent countless hours helping professional massage therapists correct improper body mechanics and technique application. Following are a few preventive tips.

1. Drop your shoulders, relax your hands, and breathe. 

So many therapists keep their hands clenched in a fist while they work. Let them go! Soften your hands and relax your muscles. You are not waging battle; you are nurturing a client’s needs.

2. Deep tissue is not deep pressure. 

Learn proper application and techniques—don’t just push on a muscle with a lot of force.

3. Pace yourself. Give massage because you love it, not because you are cramming in as many people as possible to make money. Usually, 4–5 massages a day is adequate for most therapists. Keep your weekly schedule paced well so you don’t overtax your body. 

4. Less is more. 

Often we forget that basic relaxation strokes are the ones that help the parasympathetic nervous system to respond. 

5. Get proper training.

Attend workshops that give you more personal attention. If a class is too large and no one is available to check your technique, you might end up performing those new strokes incorrectly.

6. Receive regular massage. Be a role model for your clients by believing in massage for yourself first.

If you do begin to experience pain as a result of your work, take a break and find out what is causing it. You may be forced to take a few days off, but that’s much better than the alternative of missing an extended period of time with a serious injury.


  Gloria Coppola, LMT and owner of Massage Pro CE, offers classes in self-care and private mentoring for massage therapists. She also provides continuing education in a variety of topics, and was inducted into the Massage Hall of Fame in 2011 for her many contributions to the profession. Visit her website at