Many massage therapists need to be able to move around to visit clients outside of their usual workspace.
When looking to travel or if you have limited space for a permanent table, then you may want to consider a portable massage table.
So when looking to purchase a portable table there are a number of factors you should consider, to ensure you get not only the best quality for your budget, but also maximum comfort for your client. Read on for our 7 tips anyone should consider before investing in a new therapy table.
1. Types of tables
The first factor to consider before purchasing a portable massage table is the type of table that is most suited to your practice.
There are two main types of table available; these are a Tilt-back (also known as a Reiki table) or Flatbed. A Reiki table is open on both ends, which allows the therapist to reach their client easily from all angles. With these, the head of the table can also be titled up or down so that the masseuse or masseur can ensure maximum comfort for the client and can adjust the table depending on the massage style.
A Flatbed is a much more simple design and cannot be adjusted or tilted. However, this may be all you need depending on the precise type of therapy you need the table for. Both types can usually can be folded up for portability – be sure to check.
2. Finding the right weight
Watch a short overview of what sort of weight of table you will need to undertake mobile, semi-static or static treatment work.
When looking to purchase a portable massage table one of the most important factors to consider is choosing a weight that matches your massage style, as well as one that you will be able to carry around easily. Look at the working weight of potential products first.
To calculate the working weight you take the combined weight of the masseuse and the person on the table. Most tables tend to have both the static (the weight of the table itself) and working weight (how much weight the table can hold with a person lying on it) written on the underneath of the table too.
Naturally, the higher the working weight the heavier your table will be. If you practice sports massages or shiatsu then you’ll want a table with a higher working weight. If you frequently practice shiatsu massage then you may also want to try kneeling or standing on the table to ensure it can support the weight. Generally speaking, if your client weights more than 200 lbs, then you would want to consider a table with a working weight of around 800 lbs.
If you’re frequently going to be travelling around with your table then you’ll want to keep the weight of the table down to make transport easier. If needed, look at a small trolley.
3. Consider comfort levels
When purchasing your portable table you’ll also want to consider the thickness and comfort of the padding as foam thickness and density will affect the comfort levels for your client. You’ll find that a higher density and foam will retain the shape of the padding much better than lower density foam. Padding thickness tends to range from 2 – 5 inches. Generally you’ll find that tables with more padding are more expensive. Although more padding will be more comfortable for your client, it will also make your table heavier so you’ll need to work out the right balance for you. Ideally, you’ll want to avoid anything thicker than 3 inches though as this can start to become uncomfortable for your client. You want it to be supportive and firm without being too hard and vice versa, it can be equally uncomfortable if the foam is too soft.
For soft massage techniques such as a Swedish massage you’ll want a thicker and softer padding where as if you use more hard techniques such as sports massages then you’ll want a thicker and denser padding. We’d recommend using padding that is at least 2.5 inches to ensure your client is comfortable regardless of the massage techniques you use.
4. Feel the upholstery
Upholstery may not be your biggest concern if you tend to cover your table with sheets but it is still worth considering when you make a purchase.
Manufacturers tend to upholster massage tables in vinyl, leather or other synthetic materials. Ideally, you want something that is both easy to clean and durable. Nowadays synthetic materials are a lot better quality than they used to be and are more environmentally friendly than ever. Leather and high-grade vinyl can be more expensive but are lighter in weight and again are still environmentally friendly. We’d recommend a quality vinyl cover as these are both easy to clean and durable. Vinyl tends to be the most common for tables, although quality can differ. PVC has its place too, so don’t rule it out because it doesn’t sound the same.
5. Getting the dimensions right
When it comes to picking a portable table choosing the correct dimensions is extremely important. Portable massage tables tend to measure between 29 – 32 inches in width. Many standard tables tend to be 30 inches wide and 72 inches long. You’ll want to ensure that your clients can lie comfortably on your table and that it supports their entire body. If you’re a smaller massage therapist then you may want to consider a narrower table so that you can reach your client more easily. If the table is too wide then this can become uncomfortable for you as a therapist. Most therapists tend to find a width of around 28 – 30 inches the most comfortable range.
A smaller table tends to be an inch narrower in size than a standard sized table. It’s also important to consider the type of massage. If you need your client to be able to rest their arms by their side then you’ll want a wider table. If you’re choosing a table with a removable face cradle then this will also add around 12 inches to the length of the table. Most portable tables tend to come with adjustable heights of around 24 – 34 inches. Many brands of massage table, such as Affinity offer side arm extenders too, so you can increase the width as necessary.
6. Table frame
Another factor to consider in your purchase is the frame material. These tend to be made of wood or metal and both provide a sturdy, strong frame. Most individuals tend to find wood more aesthetically pleasing. However, if you’re going to be carrying around your table frequently then you may want to consider aluminium as this is lighter than wood and will make transportation easier.
Watch an overview of the main differences between wood and metal:
7. Use it yourself
Want to know exactly what your client is experiencing? You may want to have a massage on your table so that you know exactly what your client will be feeling.
If you practice massages that require a seated position or you practice Reiki, then you’ll also need to consider the end plate design of your table. If you want your clients to be able to sit with their legs under the table at the foot or head end then you’ll want Reiki end plates which are higher than standard ones and will allow for more leg space.
Decide if you want a headrest or face cradle. You’ll want these to be of a high quality, as they need to be comfortable for your client. The base posts can be plastic or metal, but look for metal as plastic can break far more easily.
Many portable tables also tend to come with a large carrying bag that you can use to transport and store your table along with your supplies such as sheets and oils. Be sure to check your table comes with one, or don’t forget to look at buying one separately as your back will thank you!
Watch our short video guides on features of our Affinity massage tables here.
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