Safety in Spas

Task-Oriented Body Mechanics

By Barb Frye
[Body Awareness]

Massage therapy is the most requested service in spas. From cruise ships to five-star hotels, the opportunities for practitioners who want to work in this setting are endless. However, to stay healthy when working in a spa, there are specific, task-oriented body mechanics to keep in mind. 

Bath Therapies

Water-related therapies are the defining treatments offered at spas. In this world of water, bending and lifting are movements of which to be mindful.

Standing: If floors are wet, pay attention to your skeletal alignment and maintain an appropriately wide, stable stance. Nonskid footwear is essential for spa work.

Bending: When bending down (e.g., to a whirlpool or bathtub), be sure to bend from your hip joints, knees, and ankles, keeping your back in a neutral position.

Lifting: Get as close as possible when assisting a client out of a bathtub or whirlpool. Lift from a squat position, maintaining a stable stance.

Steam and Sauna

In 100 percent humidity or zero, working in the steam and sauna environment can be fatiguing. Focus on breathing and hydration.

Breathing: When walking in and out of steam rooms and saunas, make sure to maintain a healthy breathing pattern.

Hydrating: Drink extra liquids. Dehydration can occur when you move repeatedly from a hot environment to an environment with a moderate temperature.

Water Effusion 

Water effusion (known as hydrotherapy) is becoming more integrated into the spa environment. Along with bending and standing, pay particular attention to the use of your hands.

Bending: Bend from your lower joints, especially when using an effusion hose for long periods of time.

Holding: Holding an effusion hose requires strength and can lead to stress in your hands and arms. Work with your arms close to your body to reduce muscular effort. Keeping your hands and arms as relaxed as possible, hold the hose securely, but try not to overgrip. It also helps to vary your movements.

Standing: Secure footing is imperative when using an effusion hose with a jet nozzle. Maintain your stability and alignment.


Except in the case of a Vichy shower, you will probably not be directly involved when a client is taking a shower. You may, however, need to demonstrate how a specific shower works (e.g., Swiss shower). 

Standing: Make sure you adopt a secure, appropriately wide stance, maintaining skeletal alignment and facing your area of focus.

Reaching: When using a Vichy shower, reach over the therapy table to adjust the showerheads from a stable stance and maintain proper alignment. If needed, use a step stool to increase your stability. Avoid reaching from a rotated stance.

Body Wraps and Packs

During these treatments, you will spend a great deal of time bending, lifting, and reaching. Using the following strategies will ensure healthy movement habits.

Bending and reaching: Bend from your hip joints, knees, and ankles, and avoid reaching across the midline of the table. Keep your pelvis and feet in alignment with the focus of your work and avoid reaching from a rotated stance.

Lifting: When lifting weight, such as a limb, or lifting and rolling the whole body, get close, face the weight, and use the strength of your lower body—not your back—to lift.


When applying a facial treatment such as a mask or peel, or giving a full facial massage, you will most likely be seated behind the client’s head.

Sitting: Keep your shoulders in a neutral and relaxed position and work with your arms close to your body. Your fingers and thumbs should remain relaxed, yet flexible.

Maintain a relaxed, vertical position. Rest your weight on your pelvis (not your sacrum), remaining in contact with the floor with both feet. Avoid working in a rotated position.


Last, but not least, are the brushes, glows, and scrubs. Here, pay close attention to how you apply pressure. 

Applying pressure: Be sure to work from your entire body, not just your hands, arms, and shoulders. Whether using circular or linear movements, press your feet into the floor, generate power from your lower body, transfer power to your arms and hands, and allow your entire body to flow with your movements.

A place of Relaxation

Most importantly, enjoy the relaxation factor that comes with working in a spa environment. By nature, spas are a place of relaxation, a place to let go of stress, and a place to reconnect with an inner peace. Everyone in this oasis should benefit, especially you. 


  Barb Frye has been a massage educator and therapist since 1990. She coordinated IBM’s body mechanics program and authored Body Mechanics for Manual Therapists: A Functional Approach to Self-Care (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010), now in its third edition. She has a massage and Feldenkrais practice at the Pluspunkt Center for Therapy and Advanced Studies near Zurich, Switzerland. Contact her at