Saving Your Hands – by Peter Roach

by Peter on October 6, 2011

Often I’m ask by therapists and patients alike how I care for my hands. After almost 28 years of massage, 4 days a week, and 8 hours a day, my hands take a beating. And all too often I see new therapists coming out of school and begin working so hard that after 4-6 months they need to take a break because of tendonitis. So here is what I do.

Pace – be sure to pace yourself. This is the classic Tortoise and the Hare. There is no sense in working hard for 3 months, and then taking a month off to recover. Slow and steady is the call here. There is a lot of years ahead of you, don’t blow out your hands in the first year.

Relax – being tense while treating is a killer. Keep relaxed, be 100% there with your patients, and let your hands go. This is a no brainer, however I’m always shocked when teaching how tight some therapists hold their hands.

Ice (Cold baths) – after EVERY treatment run your hands under cold water for at least 3-5 minutes. And perhaps 10-15 minutes at the end of the day. As with professional athletes, and ice water bath should be part of your daily routine. Is is thought that micro-trauma results with repeated and strenuous activity (ie: massage therapist hands). On one hand this is good because the increase in activity will stimulate muscle cells activity, thus causing muscles to strengthen (think body builders). However there is also a thing called “delayed onset muscle pain” which tends to occur some 24 to 72 hours later. Is is thought that ice and ice baths,

  • constrict blood vessels and flush waste left by cellular metabolism
  • decrease metobolic activity
  • decrease swelling and tissue breakdown

Exercise – after all this manual work you may think that you don’t need any more exercise. But massaging is your job. You must have strong hands and forearms to decrease the stress the small little muscles undergo. And for that matter arms, shoulders and back are also important. Invest in a little time at the gym, or have some exercises to do at home. Not every day but 3-4 days a week. Your hands and body will thank you and treat you nicely in return. And don’t forget to stretch out also.

Address any issues – even with the slightest of pain, tweek, or fatigue, take notice. There are many things I have done in the past to ward off pending pain. These include, and still do for that matter, massage (someone else massaging your hands), ice and ice baths (see above), Laser light applications, and K taping techniques. Any and/or all the above can keep you working without missing a beat.

Diet – there are many supplements I’ve tried and continue to use. Some do not have supporting research, but do have big claims. In my experience I think it’s best to try some of them and see what works for you. Of course the top supplements I use are

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Green Lipped Mussels

Of course there are many more, but making sure you have ALL your vitamins and minerals help. But play around and see what works best for you.

Finally, Rest – there are times when no matter what I do, my hands just start to feel tired. that’s the time when a little holiday is in order. No muss, no fuss, just rest the hands. Sometimes a long weekend is all you may need.

Listen to what your hands are telling you. Your livelihood just may depend on them.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.

In Health,

Peter Roach, RMT, CNMT, Laser Therapist

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