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Self-Care for RMTs

Love thyself

While the worst of COVID-19 is now behind us, its effects on registered massage therapists (RMTs) still linger.  There can be some lingering pain and discomfort that RMTs may still face as a result of their work.  Injuries to the shoulders, elbows and wrists are particularly common among RMTs.  Like other professionals that spend most of their time caring for others, RMTs can also easily become burnt out.  This article provides some tips to help prevent injuries, ensure that your body remains in top shape and that you’re ready mentally and emotionally.

Avoiding Inury

One of the key things you can do to prevent injury is to ensure you are using proper body mechanics.  You should ensure your table is adjusted for your height. Ensure your feet are pointing towards the patient and planted firmly. Your knees should be slightly bent and your hips, shoulders and head should be in alignment.  Hip and lower body mobility is important. Your pelvis should maintain a balanced, strong position while working. You should use elbows and forearms rather than just your hands or fingers.  These are basics of body mechanics that most RMTs are aware of, but they can be easily forgotten when you’re focused on adjusting to protocols.

One of the easiest and ultimately more beneficial things you can do is maintain a regular exercise program that includes stretching, strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Even a 30-minute walk, three times a week is beneficial.  When you practice proper body mechanics, you’re using larger muscles of the core, hips and legs to generate force rather than upper extremity muscles, so these areas are a great place to focus on while perfecting your exercise routine.

Focus on the Basics

Ensure that you are properly hydrated, scheduling water breaks if necessary. Make time to ensure you are getting nutritious meals and do your best to get enough sleep.  These basics of self-care can often fall by the wayside when you are particularly stressed or dealing with new situations, but they are important to keep in mind to ensure the longevity of your career.

It’s also important to take as much control over your schedule as possible.  Take as many or as few patients as you feel comfortable with, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking breaks.

Beyond the Physical

The therapeutic relationship you have with patients is an important part of treatment.

Back to Work

One common injury that RMTs experience is tenosynovitis, which is when adhesions develop between the tendon and surrounding synovial sheath.  This usually affects the thumb, but you can attempt to avoid it and prevent its potential negative impact on your career. Stretch those tendons after each massage to keep flexible and use self-massage to reduce any adhesions that may develop.

Another common injury that it can be hard for RMTs to avoid, even with the best body mechanics, can be neck extension.  To avoid this try not to watch your strokes and rely on what you feel to avoid holding your head in flexion.  Many RMTs also experience shoulder pain, possibly because your arms are often held in a position of flexion or abduction.  To avoid this, once you’re working you can try to depend on your core rather than your shoulders to generate pressure.

The Many Benefits

There are many benefits to focusing on self-care. It can prevent the negative effects of mental, physical and emotional stress.  It can prevent the burnout that can be caused by chronic stress and can lead to being unable to work at all. Self-care can help you to survive and thrive as a professional during this challenging time.

Resource: Excerpt from the May 2020 post Self-Care for RMTs on the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario (RMTAO) blog