Killing Your Massage Therapy Career…or Not?!

By Shannon Murray & Ross Ashcraft

Ever felt a deep ache in your thumbs?  Do they feel super tight to you?  Do you get to bed or wake up with annoyed thumbs?  Do you HOPE that it’s not arthritis starting early in life?  What would you do to have the use of your thumbs for your ENTIRE life?

Massage therapy can be extremely physically demanding, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a long and healthy career. Repetitive Strain Injury is one of the most common problems that sidelines massage therapists. Licensed Massage Therapists often injure the saddle joint of the thumb due to overuse and poor body mechanics. The most common error with body mechanics is that therapists often torque the joint by not keeping it in a straight line with the force that moves through the forearm.

“A saddle joint is more versatile than either a hinge joint or a gliding joint. It allows movement in two directions. The saddle joint gives the thumb the ability to cross over the palm of the hand (opposition).” This is the most common joint to develop arthritis. Poor body mechanics and overuse accelerate the onset of arthritis.

“The most common symptom of arthritis is pain at the base of the thumb. The pain can be aggravated by activities that require pinching, such as opening jars, turning door knobs or keys, and writing. Severity can also progress to pain at rest and pain at night. In more severe cases, progressive destruction and mal-alignment of the joint occurs, and a bump develops at the base of the thumb as the metacarpal moves out of the saddle joint. This shift in the joint can cause limited motion and weakness, making pinch difficult. The next joint above the saddle joint may compensate by loosening, causing it to hyperextension.”

This is also known as “blown out thumbs!.”

Suggestions for Maintaining Your Thumbs

1.)  The MOST fundamental way to save your thumbs as a massage therapists, is to make sure you are using proper body mechanics.  Stack them bones right up to the shoulder…and don’t shrug!

2.)  Use a handy tool called a Therapist’s Thumb. This tool is great for performing deep tissue and trigger point massage. It allows you to give deeper therapy without increasing the strain on your hand because it distributes the force
throughout the entire arm and hand instead of through the saddle joint. I have recently started using one during my deep tissue sessions and have noticed a drastic decrease in hand fatigue.  See below for some links and options.

3.)  Add a very cool technique to your foot massage routine.  During each massage use the thenar eminence or better known as the base of your thumb to massage the heel of your client’s foot.  The heel can take A LOT of pressure.  Use this as a fantastic way to dig that soreness out of your own thumbs while giving the best heel massage your clients will ever receive.


What do you think of our suggestions?  Do you have one of your own?  PLEASE SHARE!!!!!!!


Thumb Saver:

Therapist Thumbs:







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