By Neal from Massage Therapy Schools Information

Massage therapy is a rigorous and demanding profession. The American Massage Therapy Association currently places the average career span of an MT at only 7 years. Meaning that the average MT gets burned out after 7 years in the profession. Of course there are many reasons for switching careers, but because of the physical demands of the profession, a good portion of that burn out is from not doing enough self-care and getting burnt out.  Yet there are ways to avoid burn out, self care and proper management only being the most evident, the other is gaining popularity and it is the use of hand tools.


This refers to a massage therapist that manages their time and body to ensure the longevity of their career. Most of the tips for self-care revolve around proper living including eating healthy, proper exercise and getting lots of rest and relaxation.  This should include proper vacations and receiving massages on affected areas at least bi-weekly. Those massage therapists that receive massages every other week report less stress and physical ailments than those that do not receive them at all.  Yet self-care should also include implements or tools that could lessen the stress and impact of massage on therapist’s fingers, thumbs and hand joints.

The Use of Hand Tools

Applying deep tissue pressure through fingertips is done because a therapist has the most feeling in those fingertips to assess muscle palpitation and problem nodes. However this constant pressure can lead to compression of nerves and blood vessels and permanent sensitivity loss.  Hand tools have been shunned by many massage therapists as ‘unnatural’ to the profession. Although it is agreed that hand tools will never replace a skilled massage therapists ability to assess muscle issues, they can aid after the fact. With a proper tool and practice it can alleviate stress, pain and compression of finger tips and thumbs during deep tissue massages.

Hand tools are not meant or designed to replace the use of the massage therapist’s hands, but simply to aid where necessary, especially in deep tissue massaging scenarios. 1/3 of all massage therapists report having pain or musculoskeletal issues due to work.  Yet most still refuse to see the value in a tool that could reduce pain and extend their career. The purpose of the tool is not diagnostic. It is to relieve stress while applying deep tissue pressure, alleviating stress on the fingers and joints.

Hand Tool tips

The biggest advantage of hand tools can be negated if you do not choose the right style for you. Ensuring it is comfortable, you can have a full hand grip and you are comfortable in its use will take time.  Make sure to test and practice on another therapist before applying its use to a patient. Hand tools allow the same deep pressure without as much pressure, but figuring this out takes time. If you apply too much pressure on a tool it could end up hurting the patient.  Finding the same amount of pressure with a tool as your hands can take weeks of practice. Also do not use them on bone or hard tissue, they strictly for soft and deep tissue work.

Start finding, practicing and implementing hand tools now to ensure the longevity of your career and avoid extraneous damage to finger or joints. The perception of the use of tools is changing and their acceptance is being born out of practical necessity. It is certainly changing our perception.

This article has been contributed by the team at The Massage Therapy Schools Information, an information portal that is dedicated to helping students establish a successful career in the massage therapy industry.
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The Kneader