Research Needed on Ergonomics & Risk Factors for Massage Therapists

Posted:Tuesday, April 17, 2018

By Massage Therapy Foundation Trustee, 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.