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!!!!!!!

Find Us:




Thumb Saver:

Therapist Thumbs:







29 thoughts on “Killing Your Massage Therapy Career…or Not?!”

  1. Great work Shannon!! I really want to start using a thumb guard, it will be really helpful. The foot massage greatly decreases any hand strain and muscle soreness. Also, using different parts of your hands, like your palms or fingers, helps when trying to find comfortable proper body positioning. Which can provide the same accuracy of executing a technique with your thumbs and the same pressure,if not more, and it is less potentially harmful because it decreases the possibility of awkward body mechanics that some people think they have to use when trying to use your thumbs for everything.

  2. Wow I have heard a lot about this and I’ve been having pain in my hand I’m going to start doing it this way and see what happens thanks for this

  3. I haven’t noticed my thumbs bothering specifically, but I have had to deal with some general hand cramping. This is a great reminder to keep all joints aligned! I may need to invest in the “Therapist’s Thumb” tool. Great job Shannon!

  4. Excellent reminder! As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized I have to consider how doing certain things affects my body. You really start to regret doing a lot of things that caused wear and tear on your body when you get older. You may not notice it when your young but after awhile you will. I have a pretty bad habit of overusing my thumbs so I’m trying to implement more forearms and elbow techniques into my routine to save my hands.i look forward to using the thenar eminence technique on the heels,I like to do a long foot massage it’s one of my faves.

  5. I was hesitant to buy a therapist’s thumb because I was afraid that it wouldn’t feel right to the client. After having it used on me I will definitely be buying one. It feels no different than an actual thumb and it saves you from damaging your hands. It can also help get deeper into the muscle with less work.

  6. I love the therapist thumb! I have not had the chance to use one but have known several therapist who have and they have nothing but praise to share about it!

  7. This is good information on how not to ruin your thumbs that greenish blue tool that i see used in the picture for thumbs looks like its preety useful nad might keepmyou from ruining your thumbs

  8. This is a great blog, thanks for the info.I’m definitely going to check into getting the thumb tool for deep tissue therapy.

  9. Proper body mechanics are so very important for maintaining healthy thumbs, and they honestly make performing each massage technique more effective and require less effort.

    Doing stretches, ROM exercises, and self massage of the hands is also very important.

  10. I need to be more careful with my thumbs, thank you for the info. I need to get one of those Therapist Thumbs, they look pretty cool, i bet they work great too.

  11. Thank you for this blog, after I’m done giving a massage my hands are killing me, the therapist thumb looks very interesting I’m gonna have to try that and see if it helps me when I’m do trigger point

  12. Very good information. I do not have trouble with my thumbs, and I hope that these tip will keep me from having trouble. Again, great article.

  13. I need to try the therapist’s thumb tool sometime and see if it really helps save your thumb from hurting so bad or at all. See if it works well when doing deep tissue massage and save your thumbs from all the pain you may have in doing a deep tissue massage.

  14. That therapist thumb is a pretty nifty tool and though I have never used one I feel you would be able to go much deeper than if you were to use the stretch from you thumb alone.

  15. This information is very good to know. I feel like if I don’t correct my thumbs soon I will have a very short massage career. I’m so double jointed in my hands that my bones have a hard time staying stacked. The therapist thumb defiantly looks like something I’ll be looking into and possibly purchasing.

    1. Hi Megan, I’m currently considering going into a message program but am fearful because I am double jointed. Have you been able to protect your joints and mobility using other forearm and shoulder techniques or would you discourage against it ? Would grate Ly appreciate any feedback !

  16. I loved this blog, i do get worried sometimes about my thumbs later on in life being in this field of work. i’m going to get a therapist’s thumb for sure!

  17. Great article! This was a great read with some great techniques. I always try my best to have good body mechanics before I work. Thanks!

  18. I am definitely considering getting a therapist thumb, not only for deep tissue, but maybe to teach me better technique as well. I would like to feel one used on myself though, just to see if you can tell that something artificial is used.

  19. Great Blog!
    Aftet the first week of my massage program I started to focus on using proper body mechanics than just trying to muscle down every massage technique. After the 2nd week I noiced a Huge difference! Besides that, the Therapist’s Thumb sounds like a grea tool to use. I’m considering getting one now