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You can put together an effective injury risk management plan for your own massage practice based on proven workplace injury prevention and ergonomics principles. The study of ergonomics has shown that multiple factors are involved in causing workplace injury. As a result, a successful prevention strategy must be holistic and multifaceted, combining a number of tactics to address all potential causes.  The most important areas to emphasize in this holistic approach to self-care are:

Setting up a Safe Workplace

A therapist’s treatment space must be designed to fit the therapist’s body characteristics and the type of work they do. You need enough space to move freely around their table to avoid static positioning and awkward postures.  Using a power-adjustable table allows the therapist to work comfortably and efficiently as they change techniques and move from one client to another. It is also very important to maintain a consistent, manageable workload from day to day and week to week, with sufficient rest and recovery time between treatment sessions.

Using Good Body Mechanics

Learn to use your bodies in a natural and efficient way, maximizing strength while avoiding overloading vulnerable parts of the body like the hands, thumbs, neck, or low back.  Modify or eliminate any technique that causes pain or discomfort. Plainly speaking, if it hurts, don’t do it.

Staying in Shape

Lack of physical conditioning is a risk factor for injury. To stay healthy throughout a career, you must have the necessary conditioning to keep up with the physical demands of your work.  Be sure to develop a multifaceted conditioning program you can practice at least three times a week.

Taking Care of General Health

Getting enough sleep, eating well and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking can help you withstand the rigors of you work and heal tissue damage before it progresses to the point of injury.

Paying Attention to Emotions

Difficulty setting limits with clients, unreasonable expectations of oneself, or inflexibility about treatment methods can increase risk of injury or burnout.  Learn to be good to yourself, and a long, healthy career will be within your grasp.

Portions of this article reprinted from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, 2nd Edition, Copyright © 2008 Gilded Age Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lauriann Greene, CEAS and Richard W. Goggins, CPE, LMP are co-authors of the all-new 2nd Edition of Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists , the leading textbook on self-care used in massage schools across the U.S. and Canada. Lauriann and Richard have published numerous articles in national massage and spa magazines on this subject, co-authored the first statistical study on injury among massage therapists, and offer continuing education courses, a Certified Injury Prevention Instructor program, and consulting and training to help massage therapists prevent workplace injury.  For more information, please visit www.SaveYourHands.com or call 877-424-0994.

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