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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

"Don't Your Hands Get Tired?"

One of the questions I get asked most frequently as a massage therapist is "how do you do massages all day and not have your hands get tired?" Well, I never really thought about it until recently. I was in hour 4 of a marathon 8-hour corporate massage day and the I-lost-count-ith person asked me this question. My usual response to this question is "proper training" and a joke then the question usually dies there. But what exactly is it about this proper training that lets me keep using my hands for so many hours at a time without getting tired? There are a few factors involved:

1. Muscles - the right ones

The 'proper training' I refer to means that in learning how to do the actual massage strokes and techniques I use, I have also learned the proper way to do those strokes and techniques. I've learned how to properly hold my hands, move my arms, how to apply pressure by using the right muscle groups and positions. You know how when you ask someone like your spouse to rub your shoulders and they squeeze for a few seconds then complain their hands hurt? That's because they are probably just using their fingers and top parts of the hands instead of the whole palm and forearm muscles - the fingers have smaller muscles than the palm of the hand, so they get tired more quickly. Learning how to use the proper larger muscles to do the work instead of the smaller hand muscles demonstrates how proper training in how to do things rather than trying to replicate what it looks like to do things can really make a difference.

2. Things aren't always as they seem

So hands aren't the only thing I actually use to do a massage. Yes, look at any massage video and it appears that hands are the only things being used, however in addition to using my hands, I also use something that can't be seen - gravity and my body weight. I use my hands to a point, but I also use what is called "Proper body mechanics" to press harder and apply deeper pressure without using my actual muscles and therefore not tiring myself out. Yet another benefit of proper training.

3. I have a past...

One thing in my past gives me an advantage to not getting tired doing massages that has nothing to do with proper training. I used to be a professional dancer, which although many people think isn't a big deal, as far as body conditioning and endurance goes, I qualified as an elite-level athlete. I was used to beating my body up with cardio and strength challenges for 12+ hours a day, so standing and using significantly less muscles for multiple hours is not a big deal because instinctively my body is used to a lot more.

4. Proper self care

After many years of beating myself up, massage may be "easier" on my body, but it isn't all easy. I'm significantly older and heavier than I was when I was dancing, plus even though I still teach dance, I am nowhere near keeping up with the cardio work that I used to do, so  I have to rely on other things to keep myself functioning well. Nobody can function in any way if they don't practice some levels of self care. I rest when I can, I massage myself and use heat on my hands when I've had a particularly long day. Massage has left my hands very sensitive especially to cold, so I own multiple pairs of gloves and almost always have a pair nearby to keep my hands safe and comfortable. I get massages myself when I can (not nearly enough - I know, but who follows their own advice?) and I rely on the amazing chiropractors/Applied Kinesiologists at Integrative Health Care Associates that I work with to keep me running. There is much more self care I should be practicing to make things even better, but for now, I'm hanging in there.

All in all, there is no one answer to "Why my hands don't get tired". (Although, they do - I'm human after all, but I know how to work with and through the fatigue and how to best treat it afterwards.) The only important thing to know about my hands and massage is that as a properly trained professional, my goal is to provide you with the best, most effective massage that I can give you - using whatever "tricks of the trade" I need to make that happen.

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