If you are a massage therapist, your hands are your livelihood. They offer the healing power of touch to each of your clients; they are the tools to keep your career going. In a profession that relies so much on your hands, it is easy to overwork and neglect to care for them. A large majority of massage therapists leave the profession due to injury and muscle strains, especially from thumb pain, repetitive stress injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Take a minute to really feel what your hands are feeling. Don’t be afraid to admit it if you are experiencing pain – being a massage therapist isn’t easy! You constantly face struggles, whether they come from the financial need to take on more clients or the desire to help more people (and to help each client the best you can). These factors can take a toll on your hands and put them at risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Consider these 6 ways to protect your hands and maintain your career as a massage therapist for as long as possible:

1. Stretch

Simple stretching can go a long way for the well-being of your hands and wrists. Stretching your wrists, arms, forearms, shoulders, neck, chest, and back will help maintain the health of your hands and wrists! There are many stretching techniques that can be used before and after each massage that will help keep you pliable and pain-free.

2. Rest

Be aware of your work schedule, and avoid overbooking. You need time to relax, too! A steady schedule (or, during busier times, a slow-paced increase in bookings) will help avoid pressure, stress, injury, and burnout.

3. Take Breaks

During your workday, be sure to give your hands, wrists, and arms breaks between massages. Try to fit in a 30-minute break between every 3-4 clients to avoid long periods of constant pressure on your muscles.

4. Body Mechanics

Being aware of and adjusting your body mechanics will do wonders for the longevity of your hands and wrists. Simple adjustments, like tweaking the height of the massage table, using hand-over-hand placement when massaging deeply, and using tools such as stones, hot packs, and trigger point tools can make a huge difference in the level of pain and stress on your joints.

5. Avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI)

Switching up your massage techniques to allow for different movements within each session and with back-to-back sessions can help avoid RSI. If you can, try to avoid activities outside the massage room that require repetitive movements (like knitting)!

6. Set Limits

Know what you are comfortable with before starting a massage session. If the client asks for more pressure or a deeper massage, and you know it will cause you pain, it’s okay to say no. By setting limits, you are ensuring a long-lasting career and fewer injuries. Tailor your services as much as possible to suit your clients’ needs, but draw the line if it puts you at risk. Only work as deeply as is comfortable and safe for you!