Professional Massage Equipment - The Essentials For Success

 

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Hi, I am Jeff Riach, cofounder of Oakworks, the largest manufacturer of professional treatment tables in the US. My wife Linda and I started our company in 1978 and we have been designing and building tables in our Pennsylvania factory ever since. 
This video is designed to help you find the right professional products that will not only support your clients, but support a long and healthy career
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There are hundreds of tables on the market, and they all look about the same. The truth is, they are all about the same; inexpensive Chinese made tables designed for home use. But many are marketed as professional products. These imported tables are a good value for home use, but for a professional, they will cost you much more to own and use than a table made specifically for professionals in the United States. 
 There are no Federal regulations or standards for massage tables, and unlike a car where you can buy almost any brand and have a safe vehicle that will last over 100, 000 miles, you can’t assume a cheap table will perform well and be safe.  So how do you get a good value in a treatment table? And what is a good value?  
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There are a few important parts in determining value. Price is obviously an important part, so let’s look at price, and cost of ownership. 
Let’s say you buy an inexpensive $200 table package, with face rest and carry case. Assume it lasts 5 years, which would be very good for many of these cheaper tables, and you do an average of 5 massage sessions/week during that time. Over the 5 years you will have done 1,250 massages. The Average cost per session is only 16 cents. Not a lot of money!
Now, if you purchased a professional table package, and it cost $600, and you performed 5 massage sessions a week for 5 years, it would only cost 48 cents per session! But the resale value is much higher for a professional product, and it will last much longer, on average, twice as long as the imports.  So the price per session starts to drop down to almost the same as the cheap table. 
So, price doesn’t appear to make a big difference in the long run…
But there is a big difference in value.
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Professional products are more comfortable, more secure feeling, quieter, and more reliable than products designed for home use.
How does that affect the value?
 When clients are more comfortable and secure,

 Will they have a better experience? 
Will they come back? 
Will they tell their friends? 
Could you charge more than someone with a home use style table?

What if you book just one more appointment a month because of referrals? That’s at least $600 /year and your table will pay for itself in one year.
So now you can see why investing in professional products makes sense. The next step is choosing a table that is right for you.
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To get the right table, you have to consider two people: You and your client.

Your choice of table is based on a balance between the needs of both of you. Remember, a happy client is a good referrer who keeps coming back. 
 In this next section I will cover everything you need to consider to create the best balance, which will lead to a long and rewarding career for you…and a great experience for all your clients.
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First, let's consider the width. The right width creates a balance between client comfort and good, career lengthening ergonomics for you. 
Simply put, narrower tables are better for you, wider tables are more comfortable for your clients. A wider table feels great to the client, but your body mechanics will suffer because you have to over reach. If you go too narrow and make your life easy, then your client may never get comfortable with their arms feeling like they are falling off the side of the table. 
What is the perfect width for general massage??  We suggest that for most people, a 28 - 30 wide table is best for a first table. This creates a good balance of reach for you and comfort for your client. If you are over 6’ tall, you could consider a table a little wider. If you are under 5’4”, you should consider possibly a 27 or 28” wide table or even less. Narrow tables weigh less, so if you will be carrying your table a lot, keep this in mind. If you choose a narrower table, you might need to purchase some bolster armrests for your above average size clients, I will discuss this topic later in the video. 
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Portable tables are all about the same, 6 feet. The face rest is one way to lengthen a table for prone or supine clients who are taller than 6 feet. You can also use a table extender that fits into the face rest outlets to accommodate taller clients. If you work on tall athletes this is a good investment.
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Generally the height range of most tables works well for most forms of body work. Your instructor might recommend a low height table for a specific kind of work, but most likely you will be working between 25” and 31” high. If you are 6’2” or taller, you might be working above this height, but all our tables range between 24”-34” high as the standard.
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The right type of high quality padding is very important. Padding quality determines how long it will last, and how comfortable it is. A 3” system from one company may not be very comfortable or long lasting, while 2.5” of high quality padding from a professional products company will be more comfortable and last many times longer. Here is an example of what happens with cheaper foams after just a year or two of regular use.
Layered foam systems are best, as they help to create a balance between comfort and support using less foam, helping to keep your table as light as possible. The top layer is softer, and the bottom layer insures you don’t bottom out. Foam that is glued in place and covers the sides of the table completely insures that both you and your clients will not touch hard surfaces. Another benefit of this system is that you can create a flatter top, with less rounding, so your clients’ arms don’t feel like they are falling off the table.
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If you are not clear what work you will be doing with your table, then pick a balance between soft and firm foams. Soft foam helps your clients relax and enjoy, while firmer foams can make some massage techniques easier, if it is not uncomfortable for your client. Ask your instructor about the techniques you will be using and the foam they recommend
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At the same time you are thinking about the feel, you need to think about how much your table will weigh, especially if you will be carrying your table. Our semi-firm 2.5” foam comes standard on the Aurora. This foam is lighter in weight by a couple of pounds in comparison to our plush, 3” foam, which is standard on the Nova. You can move all the way up to AeroCel 4” padding, which Adds about 4-5 lbs. to the table, but is incredibly comfortable. 
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Good quality fabric is a must, because cheaper fabrics will crack, stretch and tear easily. If you by a cheap table, you will likely have to recover your table within a few years, which is very expensive. OW uses only 100% polyurethane fabric made specifically for massage tables, not PVC or vinyl.  The fabric is designed to withstand abrasion, tearing and exposure to oils, while minimizing noxious fumes and negative effects on the environment.
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Weight ratings, what do they mean? For the most part, not much. There are no standards or regulations, so manufacturers can basically pick a number and claim their table will handle it. 
And of course the higher the number, the stronger people think the table is. They use different terms like static, dynamic, working. Some claim up to 1200 lbs. of people can safely be put on their table.  Does that seem reasonable to you? At Oakworks we do extensive testing of our products, from product testing to make sure our tables will last under heavy use, to part inspections during the building of your table, to having every table tested at 1400 lbs. of weight before being shipped to you.
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Wood or aluminum, which is better? The most important considerations are quality of design, materials, and assembly, not the type of material.
 Aluminum is lighter and stiffer than wood, so the lightest tables are Aluminum, assuming you want about the same strength. But beware of cheap tables, Aluminum comes in different grades and some grades are not very strong and bend easily. The high quality T6 aluminum used to build the Wellspring portable table is very stiff,  and the design allows  excellent access from all 4 sides, Great for Reiki, polarity and energy workers who sit comfortably all the way around the table. Our patented design features an inverted truss and folding leg braces for the ultimate in strength and stiffness. Changing the height of the table is easier with the telescoping legs. The Advanta features the same understructure and is even smaller with its special contoured top, making it our lightest table and great for shorter therapists. 
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A high quality wood table is beautiful, and Oakworks uses North American hard maple, the hardest and stiffest wood available. Cheaper Chinese Tables use Rubber wood and something they call Chinese Oak. These softer woods not only break more easily, but over time they show signs of wear, causing the table to become wobbly and even weaker.
Our Straight grained hard maple with special hardware on our tables is engineered for stiffness. The unique leg and leg extension system with deep W groove gives you the strength you need without having to fiddle with two knobs to change the height, and minimizes sway at higher table settings. Oakworks is a Forest Stewardship Council certified facility, insuring you that all of our products are made with sustainably forested woods. The same is not true for Chinese made tables.
OW has done extensive testing on cables and found that under very heavy loads the center section of the cable system needs to be the strongest, so, on all our tables we use a heavier cable than anyone on the market. This makes the table stiffer and less springy when you press down. On our Nova model, our patented slide lock system helps to make the table even stiffer and stronger by replacing the smaller cables with solid steel slides.
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The frame is the core of the support structure for your work, and one of the reasons our tables last so long. 
Oakworks uses finger jointed, solid North American poplar hardwood to create a very strong and lightweight frame. All parts are glued and fastened with a high level of precision. Baltic birch plywood is used in all our portable table tops and for our end panels because of its high strength and low weight.  On the Nova we use reinforcing ribs to stiffen the table top. The nylon leg blocks are indestructible and lightweight, and the folding braces are attached with our patented Integra-Hinge design that is stronger and lighter than a continuous hinge. It works like a Vice grip on the table halves and very few holes are made in the frame compared to a continuous hinge, insuring maximum strength of the table frame.
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Oakworks tables feature an access end design, which many do, but check the actual accessibility. You want to be able to get your legs under the end brace when sitting on a stool at the height you set the table at to work. Many imports don’t allow this functionally, but they look like they do. The Oakworks Wellspring portable table goes one step further, offering access at both ends and at the sides, which is great if you do a lot of work on a stool.  
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Your table should be easy to set up and fold up. Oakworks has a patented system called Unilock. You just press the button and the table opens, and it closes just as easily. The Unilock also folds out of the way to protect the floor when using the table flat on the floor. Most tables have cheap luggage latches that get in the way, catching you as you move around the table or ripping your sheets
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A face rest crescent and platform is a very important part of your professional tool kit. Used most of the time for face down support,  a comfortable face rest will make a huge difference in your clients experience. Adjustability is a must, and Oakworks quick lock platform has two cams that allow you to choose any height or angle you need. We also have the one cam Adjustable model. The crescent pad must be very comfortable to insure that your clients can lay face down for 30 minutes. Our Boiance pad features a three layer foam system and a patented water ball system that floats your client’s face, while avoiding putting pressure on the sinus areas.
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For narrower tables, a lowered armrest really helps when lying face down, and the arm hammock is a low cost alternative that works well also. For face up or down positions, our bolsters side arm rests with internal stiffening rod make a narrow table feel very wide. These are really a must if you get a narrow table and want your bigger clients to relax completely on your table.
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Bolsters are a must to alleviate tension in the legs and back for most people. There are many different sizes and types on the market. Oakworks makes a full line in our US factory, and all come with pull handles on both sides. High quality 100% polyurethane fabric and a long lasting foam core create a great balance of comfort and support. Our unique semi-round design in 6” and 8” diameters allows you to change the effective height of support easily, and our fluffy bolster with its super soft feel is incredibly comfortable. If you are going to have only one bolster, start with the 6” semi-round, which is great under the knees or ankles.
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Carry cases are a must if you are going anywhere with your table, and for protecting it when not in use. Sturdy construction with good stitching and high quality fabric are needed to make sure it will hold up. If you will be traveling with it, make sure there is at least one good sized pocket to store additional items. You only want to make one trip! Not only does a case protect the table, it protects your body as you can distribute the weight over many more muscles.
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A table cart is a great idea if you will be covering a lot of ground, like going from large parking lots to buildings or from building to building. It makes the walking effortless. However, steps are best negotiated by picking up the cart and table, which means extra weight. So understanding the balance of walking and steps that you expect is important. The cart should be as light weight as possible and be balanced well for pulling behind you like the Oakworks cart.
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Let’s look at some other table designs, just in case you need something a little different to do your work than what we have been talking about.
 The Advanta is our lightest table and the easiest to reach across and carry. It is designed for shorter therapists along with those who may have other physical limitations, and for those wanting great access to their clients and the ability to perform stretches.
 The Alliance features an adjustable backrest, which is great for aesthetician services and for some clients with respiratory problems 
The Mat tables are super wide and low, and are a favorite for some types of structural bodywork. The Portal Pro has been an industry favorite for almost 20 years. This chair will help you get new clients for your table practice, and work on your clients in ways that are not possible on a table. 
And finally, the Convertible, a great next table for you when you set up a studio practice. This table allows you to convert your portable into an electric lift table and back in under a minute.  Being able to adjust the height of the table for each client and during the treatment helps extend your career and improve the effectiveness of your work. The Oakworks Convertible makes owing an electric lift table affordable if you have a dedicated space of your own. 
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The length of a guarantee is not as important as the company that backs it. Remember, companies can come up with lots of reasons why your issue might not be covered- abuse, wear and tear, or improper use. A company with a great reputation for customer service is going to give you the best service. Oakworks has the best reputation for customer service in the industry and our portable tables are backed by a limited lifetime guarantee on the structure, and 5 years on the foam and fabric.

There are lots of things to consider when purchasing a portable table, and it’s clearly worth the time to do it.  Your table and associated accessories are your professional tools, and with your education, the foundation of your success! Thanks for watching.