4 Self Care Tips for Brand New Therapists

by Injury Prevention, New Therapist, Preventative Exercises0 comments

So, you’re out of school and ready to tackle the worlds pain! 

Nothing is more exciting than the thought of helping clients that are in need of your treatment and better yet, getting paid for it!

There are some good habits that need to be formed in order to make sure that you stay a therapist and keep it past the point of the usual burnout rate of 3-5 years. 

The thing is – a lot of massage schools are good at teaching the basics and the essential parts of modalities and techniques but there isn’t too much emphasis on good self care practices – you know, the thing that keeps you in business for a long time. 

This is my whole goal, which is to bring to light many good practices that you can utilize to make sure that you stay a therapist forever!

That being said – this episode and article will uncover 4 really good tactics that you can employ right now to ensure that you go into the massage world being the strongest version of yourself that you can be. 

What you will learn

#1 Charging what you’re worth

Do you want to know one of the biggest parts of the burnout equation? New therapists often feel that they aren’t worth more than $40-50 an hour, just because they are right out of school. 

I don’t care who you are or what modality you practice, but you are worth more than that, even in your first year.

If you don’t think this is true, take for example a massage franchise. They have memberships that clients can buy for around $70 an hour, for most.

Often times, that franchise hires therapists right out of school and those same therapists are completing sessions that are worth $70, and they clients will often tip on top of that.

Now you’re looking at $80-90.

For franchised massage chains, that isn’t actually what the therapist is making, but if that therapist can give an amazing service that is worth $70, right out the gates of school then I invite you to really think about setting your bar higher. 

This plays on so many levels of self care. Remember earlier when I mentioned the equation of time and effort equaling the most money possible for you?

This is a prime example of this principle.

Lets go back to the example of the franchise massage therapist. If you are charging a minimum of $70 per hour for your session, that is roughly equivalent to five massage minus a tip if you are working at a franchise.

Just imagine working LESS and at the same time making more money. This is one part of the equation. The other part is that obviously the less amount you actually work, the less wear and tear you place on your body. 

I would strongly recommend raising your rates every single year. Even if it is $5, the clients that really enjoy your treatments and find value in you will gladly pay more and more. Most do understand the need for businesses to grow and scale. Even if one or two clients leave, the pay total increase in profits will largely make up for it, and it will just show you how people really think and you will realize who you don’t want in your practice.

It doesn’t stop there either, there are plenty of ways to make your time and value to your client worth more without necessarily doing more physically.

You can add in aromatherapy for a nominal fee, or perhaps create some membership options yourself for clients where they are given multi tiers offering varying degrees of awesome things.

Maybe I will do another episode on the membership thing, because this has been a question that comes up commonly.

#2 Body Mechanics need to be maintained every session

I still see many therapists years into their practice that bend at the thoracic spine to do elbow work. To me, good body mechanics are not only having your body in a good place in order to be the most mechanically advantaged as far as maintaining good integrity in your joints but also advantaged in the sense where you are delivering the type of pressure that your client wants in the easiest and most efficient way possible.

So what is the most efficient use of your body to make certain strokes easier? The use of bodyweight in my eyes is the quickest way to make your body more efficient.

As far as a good stance you can use is one that I explained in the last episode on anterior shoulder dominance. I explain how being more upright and using a split stance power position where your arms are bone stacked in a straight line can be a really good way to use both bodyweight and a little bit of strength to deliver great pressure without much effort at all. 

Using this power stance really helps keep your posture maintained as well because you are more likely to have a neutral spine with your shoulder blades in a better position, neck and head in proper alignment and hips at a better angle. Good body mechanics in general will promote better posture in general but there are things that you can do outside of the treatment to ensure that your posture is on point.

#3 Strenghening antagonist muscles

Chances are, if you’re a brand new therapist – and you don’t have a history of injury in a certain area – then your body isn’t predisposed to the strains that being a therapist can place on you, which is good thing.

The reality is, being a therapist is hard on our bodies, and that’s not to scare you, because what we do is absolutely incredible and the ability to help people is something that only few have the talent for, but if you have some of these tools in your arsenal then being a therapist will be easier for you than most. 

If you’re like many of us, then you likely practice western type modalities where you spend a lot of time standing, using the shoulder girdle a lot and bending over to do deeper work.

There is a reason why a lot of therapists are booked, and it’s because these techniques are really effective but the reality of the matter is a lot of therapists don’t use their bodies correctly in order to administer the type of pressure that they normally give and that clients request.

In my eyes, this is all because of the overuse of the agonist muscles that are working to move our bodies in the techniques we commonly use. Some of these muscles include the pecs, anterior deltoids, triceps, quads, and lower back. 

That being said, the muscles we need to focus on are the upper back like traps, lats, rhomboids, biceps, glutes, hamstrings and abdominals.

These are all considered your antagonist muscles in this case and strengthening these key muscles will ensure there is a good play between both the agonist and antagonist muscles.

Having an even play in strength between these two groups is ultimate self care because you are limiting the chance of getting injured. 


Here at Successful Bodyworker, we have an exercise index that focuses on exercises that strengthen the antagonist muscles among other things. Check it out here.

This index breaks down the exercises by muscle and provides you with a tutorial on exact technique and execution. All of these exercises are tailored specifically to massage therapists and will help you stay injury free throughout your career.


#4 Know the difference between an injury and muscular soreness

Many will tell you that there is no gain without pain, and I want to say that this isn’t the case, even with exercise. 

This mindset that that you have to push yourself past your body’s limits before it is ready just boggles my mind. In some cases, it will get you where you want to be quicker – but the risk far outweighs the reward in this case. This is why you see a lot of top level bodybuilders and strength athlete injured a lot. 

More on this topic, as far as being a therapist, I want you to realize the difference between being sore from work and having inflammation and joint pain. The physical sensations are actually quite different. Muscular soreness is more a dull ache with specific movements and to me – it actually feels good. 

Joint pain and inflammation on the other hand has some different sensations associated but it can be anywhere from dull, to sharp to throbbing. You will be able to tell the difference.

This may be common sense to some but you’d be surprised by some people who push past even though they are in a lot of pain. 

Most times I see therapists bend over too much, and rely too heavily on things like their elbows, thumbs and fingers, so it’s a good idea if you use these techniques heavily that you want to keep track of how you’re feeling so that you don’t run into injuries down the road. 

I think injuries are often a result of not listening to your body’s queues and signs that it is in pain. If something feels off, or begins feeling tight or inflamed, it’s good to start kind of dissecting root cause of the issue and see where it is starting. 

summing it all up

Yes, we are all done! I hoped this helped shed some light on some important self care pieces that I think all therapists can benefit from.

Just to recap, we went over:

  • The fact that you are worth more and provide a lot more value than just $40-50. If you think this isn’t true, just know that most new therapists in franchised chains are providing sessions that are worth $70 plus a tip. If they can do it then you can too!
  • Some simple fixes to body mechanics can make all the difference in the world to maintain good posture.
  • Antagonist muscles like the traps,rhomboids,rear delts and serratus anterior need to be strengthened a remain a priority throughout your career.
  • Knowing the difference between muscular soreness and joint inflammation and pain.

Therapist Challenge

Was there a big emphasis on self care when you went to school? If so, what was the thing that stuck most with you? Comment below.


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About Me

My name is Zack Mayfield and I am in the constant pursuit to help each and every therapist achieve strength, better self-care and longevity in their career!

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