June 10, 2009

How Many Massages Can You Do?

Sue Peterson, LMT, NCTMB, continues her series on our blog. Sue has a private practice in Orange County, California.

After a few years of practice, I thought I was quite the massage stud. I managed in a six-day week to do about 25 massages, sometimes 30. The AMTA polls showed most therapists reported full-time as 15 to 20 massages a week. Very few went to the 25 to 30 range.

Then a client came back from a three-week trip to a Swiss spa and popped the question: "How many massages can you do in a day?"

"Oh, I can do about five to six massages a day before I feel overworked," I said proudly. "My personal record is 13 in one day – the result of being accidentally put on for a double shift when I worked in a clinic for women with chronic pelvic pain. I don't ever want to do that many ever again."

My client's explained that his curiosity came through observation. The very expensive, very therapeutic spa he went to their therapists did eight massages a day, five days a week. Forty a week.

Suddenly I was the one asking questions.

"I really don't know how they could do so many massages..Are they real massages? Not quick-glide slides? Do you feel like the therapist was present?" "Yes, they were very good," he said.

I really had to ponder that one for a bit. Don't ask me what a quick-glide slide is, but you know it when you get one. "Perhaps they can do so many because of all the espresso and pastries," I speculated. As my client dozed back to waking sleep, I felt somewhat humbled. I looked at the view outside the window. Eight a day. Lots of deep tissue. Massages by prescription – to improve blood flow, alter structural problems, remedy deficits in flexibility and relieve pain. How could those folks do it?

I had never felt lazy before. Most of the time, no matter how many hours I work in a week, actual massage time doesn't exceed 30 hours. And those weeks can be tough.

That begs the question. In our area of the world, in our slice of the therapist community, how many massages are too many?


PJ Harris, LMP said...

I think this is a very personal choice. For some giving massage is physically draining and for others emotionally draining. What does the rest of your life involve? Is your back and hands strong and injury free? How many years have you been in the business? Sometimes our age is a factor. It is for me :)

I think we all can check in with ourselves and ask the question: Was my LAST massage of the day as good as my FIRST?

Great topic, thanks, PJ Harris, LMP

Lynn said...

Hi Sue, I am so glad you posed that question to the community because I wondered the same thing myself. I am a recent graduate and am just now looking for a massage position and wondered how many I should be expected to do a day. Especially just starting out, I don't want to burn out or hurt myself trying to do more than what is considered reasonable.

Anonymous said...

PJ: I think of myself as strong, but like many therapists I am in a second career, and older, and I've had a few good car crashes....I know when I have a long day, my body mechanics aren't as good as during my first massage. I make a special effort to make sure I am looking up and not staring down at the area I'm working on...and I use the Tai chi split leg stance. Don't know what I'd do without it....my other little trick is to do squats while wringing the calves.

Anonymous said...

I have been a licensed massage therapist since 1997 and "can" do six or seven massages a day, but I feel quality is better than quantity. With the "warehouse" massage locations becoming more plentiful, quantity seems to be more important.
No matter how strong a therapist is and no matter how much endurance a therapist has, after performing many massages, most therapists are not putting 100% into it mentally.

Kathryn Marge LMT/NMT

Anonymous said...

PJ: Awesome way to check in....sometimes the last massage of the day is when you truly find out if you are taking care of yourself as well as your clients. I find the mix of clients very important. If I'm working with one or two folks with a lot of locked-down stuff, it seems to take more emotional energy (chi?) If I am not grounded with good mechanics, then that takes its toll in body soreness or fatigue. We spend all this time learning about techniques in school and in practice it is really the chi that counts.Funny, huh? - Sue

Anonymous said...

Lynn: I have no idea how many is too many or too few for a recent grad. Did you learn body mechanics? Are mechanics part of your massage? Tough to know. When I was starting, I did a lot of checking in with myself at the start and end of each day. I even used a cheat sheet with hints like drink water, stretch flexors, etc. I like cheat sheets because they tend to remind you of what should be obvious but is sometimes forgotten by the end of the day. Best of luck and good hands - Sue