Getting a Lift

It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that massage treatments account for the majority of services provided in today's spas or that larger clients are becoming more common. But did you know that worker's compensation injury claims from massage therapists are on the rise? Treatment tables can play a key role in each of these issues, and you can make better decisions for your business by understanding the available options. A good table allows therapists to provide ergonomically correct—and therefore better—services. It also allows clients to relax in complete comfort and security, while helping you protect your business from undue risks.

Spa in the Valley (Hunt Valley, MD) features the Proluxe Europa Table by Oakworks.
Spa in the Valley (Hunt Valley, MD) features the Proluxe Europa Table by Oakworks.

The Right Equipment

The upfront cost of a treatment table is only a part of the buying decision. There are many other factors to consider, and a cost/benefit approach to the purchase is helpful. Buying the right table is an investment in your business, your staff, and your spa's ability to add services over time. Saving a few hundred dollars now may mean you have to purchase a replacement table sooner, and you may not be providing the safe environment your clients and staff deserve.

Some buyers lament that electric/hydraulic lift tables are more expensive than stationary or portable ones. While the upfront costs are higher, the investment easily pays for itself over the first couple of years and continues to offer bottom-line profits to any business that employs multiple therapists and serves many clients. Although there are many stationary and portable tables that are manually height adjustable, they are not practical for busy spas with numerous therapists practicing in the same room. Adjusting the height of a stationary table takes time and typically requires two people, as the tables are often too large and heavy for one person to manage. And, if the leg extensions are not properly tightened, the table's overall stability could be compromised. On the other hand, portable tables, while cheaper and easier to adjust, may not be as stable and certainly don't convey a sense of permanence.


Client Benefits

Lift tables are much easier—and safer—for clients to get on and off, especially for those with physical limitations. Tables that can be lowered close to chair height are much safer. This is particularly important at the end of every session when dismounting clients may be a little woozy after their treatments. This also negates any concern clients may have regarding their safety, making the experience more relaxing overall. The quality of your spa's massage services is directly related to ensuring your therapists have appropriate professional tools at their disposal.

Therapist Benefits

Therapists perform best when they are able to work at the optimum height for the type of treatment they are administering. The correct working height allows therapists to use more pressure when appropriate and expend all their energy to deliver the massage, which in turn positively impacts the quality of the treatment. On-demand height adjustability also allows therapists to tailor the treatment to the client's specific needs on the fly. This may include choosing to do different types of work to help resolve a specific client issue. For example, deep tissue work may be indicated in the middle of a Swedish massage session, and lowering the table may be required to get more leverage.

Lift tables also help foster greater consistency in the quality of the massages given, as there is less turnover and better massages later in a shift. Massage therapists using lift tables often find that they are not as tired at the end of a shift, and therefore deliver more consistent work throughout the course of a day.

Staff Recruitment & Retention

Good therapists are more likely to work where the environment is supportive of their professional needs. Lift tables are widely recognized as providing the best working conditions for massage therapists, as well as helping to protect them from injury. In fact, some therapists may refuse to work on portable and stationary massage equipment.

Ensuring you can attract and retain good staff has positive effects in other aspects of your business, too. Seasoned therapists can add expertise, consistency, and stability to your staff and may even mentor and help train new therapists that join your spa. Better-trained and committed therapists may increase retail product sales because they know how to sell.

The overall work environment benefits when therapists feel respected and are provided with the professional tools they need. A healthy corporate culture and happy staff are more likely to create positive customer experiences and enable your business to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Liability and Risk Management

Ensuring that clients have a safe treatment surface and that staff are not exposed to working conditions that are conducive to injury are essential to your spa's risk-management program. Both areas are impacted by selecting the proper treatment table.

The safest height for transfer on and off the table varies for each client, depending on his or her height and physical condition. A lift table helps ensure that your treatment space can quickly and safely accommodate clients of varying sizes and abilities. Ensuring that the table is well constructed and can effectively support a minimum of 500 pounds is also advised. Plus, clients may sit on the very end of the table or a corner, so it's important that the table be built to handle weight throughout the surface. Be aware that not all treatment tables are created equal.

Massage therapy is a physically demanding profession with a fairly high rate of repetitive stress injuries among professionals. Lift tables help to reduce this risk and can actually prevent work-related injuries, which often become chronic. Therapists are at a lower risk for injury when they use proper body mechanics, which is contingent upon working at a table that is positioned at the right height. Minimizing physical stress and strain on therapists allows them to focus on delivering better services, which increases both work and client satisfaction.

The Bottom Line

In the end, ensuring you have the proper equipment that is safe and effective for clients and staff will also lead to a better bottom line for your business. Making smart and informed decisions about the treatment tables you purchase for your spa will support your efforts to create positive customer experiences, minimize risk, attract and retain quality staff, and reduce room set-up and staff training time, all of which impact your bottom line and help to support a profitable business. —Jeffrey M. Riach

Jeffrey M. Riach, co-owner and CEO of Oakworks, has been designing products for the massage industry for more than 30 years and has been a long-time advocate for therapist ergonomic issues. For more information, visit