All About the MTF Ergonomics Project

Posted:Friday, December 6, 2019

Project Overview

Ergonomics Project: Phase One
2019 MTF Project: $15,000
Robin Anderson, MEd, LMT, BCTMB, CEAS

MTF is conducting data collection about the work of massage therapy professionals to create a structured job task analysis.  With this information, our goal is to provide safety parameters for massage therapy work which may include identifying risk factors, examining practice environments, and analyzing the essence of how typical massage therapy work tasks are performed.

This study aims to provide the profession with information which improves workplace safety and efficiency for therapists and inspires researchers to take the initial results and explore them more fully.

  • Phase one: Will look at physical demands on the therapist and environmental contexts such as room size.
  • Phase two: Will employ the use of micro sensors measuring force output.

This innovative project has the potential to make a significant contribution to the health and career longevity of MT professionals.

A special thank you to the 755 massage therapists who contributed to this project by submitting survey responses. We appreciate your help!


Ergonomics Project: Phase Two
2023 MTF Project: $30,000

Portia B. Resnick, PhD, ATC, BCTMB

Phase Two begins summer 2023, and employs the use of wearable sensor technology measuring force output and practitioner surveys. Study participants are being recruited from MassageNet Practice-Based Research Network, a collaborative of therapists and researchers coming together to collect real-world data.

Phase 2 seeks to identify key factors inherent in individual practitioner participants and their work practices to better understand the significance/role those factors play in the development of work-related fatigue.

Objective and subjective data will be collected from massage therapists working in community-based massage therapy settings. Data collection will leverage wearable sensor technology and practitioner surveys.

Participants in the study will wear the sensors for seven days during which they will see their normal client/patient load.  Sensors will be positioned to not interfere with the massage therapy treatment and treatment protocols will be expected to follow the massage therapist's clinical rationale for that session.  Following each massage session, the massage therapist will fill out a brief questionnaire about the session and the client. Following the seven days of data collection, sensors will be cleaned and returned.  Participants will receive access to their data dashboard to learn more about themselves. Aggregate data from the study will be used by the MTF to assist in developing best practices. The MTF hopes to be a leader in the promotion of practitioner career longevity and sustainability.

A Short Introduction

Learn more about the MTF Ergonomics Project in this short video introduction with Doug Nelson, LMT, BCTMB, and Robin B. Anderson, MEd, LMT, BCTMB, CEAS.

Why Ergonomics Research is Important for MTs

Robin B. Anderson, MEd, LMT, BCTMB, CEAS

One of the most common reasons why massage therapists leave the industry is because of injury. When you consider the time and knowledge invested into entering this profession, it is disheartening that so many have short-lived careers.

Massage therapy research provides good answers to questions that affect a client's well-being. Might we also use research to make the practice safer for therapists? There have been few studies conducted in the last 10 years that focused on the use of proper body mechanics and avoiding musculoskeletal injuries while performing massage work. Two studies suggested that there is a correlation between using proper body mechanics, client workload, and long-term fatigue and injury. Both studies stated that further research is needed.

One way to approach this research is by looking at massage therapy work through the lens of ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science and art of adapting work tasks to the worker. It factors in the health and safety of the worker – both physical and emotional— and also evaluates work tasks in terms of industry productivity. A study encompassing an ergonomics job task analysis would benefit business owners as well as therapists, because they incur a significant cost when therapists are out of work frequently or their turnover rates are high.

Therapist injury is a multifaceted problem for our industry that we could potentially improve. Our mission at the Foundation is to advance the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education, and community service. Massage therapy research helps us apply scientific knowledge in the work we do for others. This knowledge also has the potential to help us advance the way we care for ourselves.

Project Updates


August 23, 22: MTF Ergonomics Project: Phase One Report, “white paper,” now available for download! Learn more about the research data gleaned during Phase One, and ways in which it may benefit your practice:

Please input email below to download MTF’s Ergonomics Project: Phase One Report (link will appear below):


    October 20, 2021: New Ergonomic Project infographic released, “Ergonomic Tips for a Healthier Career.” Please share!

    Click here to download PDF infographic

    September 25, 2021: New Research Perch podcast episode; learn more about how data was collected during Phase One of the MTF Ergonomics Project. Join us as host Robin Anderson speaks with Stefan Schulz and Paula Kalmeta from Briotix about this fascinating process.

    May 13, 2021: New Research Perch podcast episode; join MTF President Robin Anderson and Stefan Shulz from Briotix as they discuss the fundamentals of ergonomics, and how ergonomic principles were studied in MTs over the course of Phase One of the MTF Ergonomics Project.

    November 19, 2020: Phase one of the Ergonomics Project has been completed! Click below to read the complete press release.

    Press Release: Massage Therapy Foundation Completes Phase 1 of Ergonomics Study

    February 21, 2020: Data collection for the MTF Ergonomics Project continues! Listen as MTF Vice President and Ergo Project Primary Investigator Robin Anderson chats with LMT Tabitha Thurston, who generously let MTF perform data collection at Soma Massage in Portland, Oregon.

    January 7, 2020: We are excited to announce that data collection for the MTF Ergonomics Project is officially underway! Listen as MTF Vice President and Ergo Project Primary Investigator Robin Anderson, MEd, LMT, BCTMB, CEAS, speaks with Stefan Schulz, Lead Ergonomist at Briotix Health.

    Research Perch Podcast Episodes