Our experience in the massage table and supplies business at MassageKing.com has made us very familiar with the do's and don'ts, the massage table terminology, which massage table feature's are important, and which one's are nice but seldom used. In this article, we'll attempt to address the truly important concerns one should consider whether your are getting a massage table for professional use or home use.
How do I decide which massage table is right for me?
Well, that is the main question. To properly answer it, we need to answer several other questions first. Read the following questions, make your decision as to which features of a massage table are most important, and then you should be able to decide.
Which features are truly important in a massage table?
Over the years, the massage table has undergone various design tweaks and improvements as manufacturers figure out how to improve quality while at the same time improve customer satisfaction. In addition, some manufacturers have added features and accessories in an attempt to make their massage table more appealing than other tables. Through all this, the most important considerations for functionality when purchasing a massage table remain the same; those being: weight capacity, width, foam quality, frame construction, and vinyl quality. Of course there are other subjective considerations like color, but those won't affect how well the table holds up after considerable use. We have addressed those personal preferences in a separate article.
Is a cheap massage table just as good?
Absolutely not! Believe me, after 10 years of selling massage tables, we at MassageKing.com can definitely say that a cheap massage table simply does not compare to a well designed table using better materials. Once again, the saying holds true that “you get what you pay for”. Even if a “cheap” table uses the same design, the lower quality of materials will cause the table to wear out sooner, be it in the frame, vinyl, or foam. And, in six months to 18 months you'll be faced with the necessity of having to purchase another massage table. In fact, this week alone we have had two therapists walk into our showroom with a “cheap” massage table they purchased at a national “big box” retailer and asked us if we could fix it. Because the problem they experienced is a cracked table frame and worn out screw holes, their massage table is not fixable, and the liability risks of doing it are simply unacceptable. These two people both had to purchase another table. In the end, not spending the extra $100 to $150 dollars in the beginning meant they now had to spend an additional $280 to purchase a brand new massage table. This is not counting the additional cost of having to lose or reschedule appointments, additional sales tax, and shipping costs. A premium, top of the line massage table with all the features you may never use can easily cost you more than six hundred dollars, but there are also several less expensive and very good massage tables on the market in the range of $250 to $400. Generally speaking and there may be an exception or two, if the massage table you are considering is less than $250, I would seriously consider something else. Really, it’s just my humble opinion, but based on years of experience.
How wide should my massage table be?
The standard massage table width is 29 to 30 inches. If a table is narrower than 29 inches and you run the risk of having your clients shoulders and arms hang off the side of the table. Wider than 30 inches and you run the risk of the table being too tall to carry when folded into the carrying position. In addition, the wider your table is then the bigger the massage table frame is, which requires more materials to make the frame, and more foam, and more vinyl; ALL of which add more weight making it heavier to carry. With that said, there is somewhat of a bit of accepted deception when quoting the width of a massage table. Some manufacturers will say their massage table is 30 inches wide. However, the frame is 29 inches wide. “How do they do this” you ask? Well, the frame itself may only be 29 inches wide but after you wrap the foam and vinyl around the sides of the table it ends up adding an additional half of an inch to each side of the table thus making the entire table 30” wide. Other manufacturers will make their frame a full 30 inches wide before the addition of any foam and vinyl. In this case the end result will be a massage table that is wider than 30 inches. While this is not something one should get “up in arms” about, it is definitely something to know and consider when deciding which massage table is right for you. If you want to find out the truth about a particular massage table, take a tape measure and measure the width of the UNDER SIDE of the table, from the outside edge of one side of the frame to the outside edge of the opposing side of the frame.
How much should my massage table weigh?
The weight of a massage table can be one of the most important factors to consider when deciding which table is right for you. However, you should also consider how often you will be carrying it. An average massage table will weigh in the range of 33 or 34 pounds. Some of course weigh more and some less. Factors that affect the weight of a massage table include the amount and density of the foam used, the type of upholstery, the type of wood or frame material, and how wide the table is. If you believe you will be doing a large number of out-call massage sessions or your environment dictates that you have to move your massage table often then you should really consider a lighter table, perhaps one made with an aluminum frame. However, in order for the massage table manufacturers to achieve the lightest weight possible, they will often use a type of nylon webbing to make the deck (the flat part of the massage table frame that is under the foam). This eliminates the weight of the wood and also allows the manufacturer to use less foam because the client lying on the table will not experience the “bottoming out” sensation that often occurs with thin foam over a wood frame.
How much weight should my massage table hold?
Good question! We used to say at least 250 pounds. And, coincidentally, that was the average working weight most massage table manufacturers quoted in the specifications of their tables. However, over the years the weight capacities and frame designs have been tweaked to improve strength and stability, and today it is not uncommon to find massage tables that advertise a working weight of 350 pounds, 500 pounds, and even 800 pounds! Now of course keep in mind that adding weight capacity can sometimes add to the weight of the table itself. Also very important, remember that there is a difference between “working weight” of the massage table and “static weight” capacity. To find out more see our answer to the question “What is the difference between working weight and static weight?
What is the difference between “working weight” and “static weight”?
Static weight of a massage table is considered to be how much weight the table will hold with the weight remaining stationary. The weight is spread out evenly over the top of the table and left to sit. If a table has a static weight of 1000 pounds, it does not mean that you can put 1000 pounds on a single spot on the table. The strongest parts of a table are on the four corners and in the middle seam. In fact, when you sit on a massage table, you should sit in the middle where the seam is. If you were to place several hundred pounds of weight in the middle of either half of the table it would probably crack the deck.
Working weight of a massage table is considered to be how much weight the table will hold in addition to the added weight, pressure, and side load of a therapist giving the massage. Because a good massage therapist applies pressure on all points and even sideways, the true working weight of a massage table can be significantly less than the static weight rating.
What kind of foam is best for a massage table?
Foam is one of the most important considerations when deciding which massage table is right for you. When deciding which foam(s) to put in a massage table, manufacturers consider the foams weight, density, longevity, and resistance to abrasion. However, the only two you should think about is density and longevity. For you the purchaser, the weight issue is already factored in to your decision about the total weight of your table, and the resistance to abrasion is impossible for you to determine.
Density is best determined by simply applying pressure to the top of the massage table. Concentrate on the resistance the table top is giving you, not the feeling you first get when you touch the vinyl. You want to think about how firm the foam underneath the vinyl is. Is it so hard that your clients will feel like they are lying on concrete? Will the foam have enough softness for your client to be comfortable but still hold up sufficiently to allow you the therapist to push down firmly on your clients and not have them bottom out to the point where they can feel the frame underneath?
Longevity is a layman's term used to represent how long the usable life of the foam is. Some foams are great for a year or two, and then they begin to lose their resistance, their elasticity. When you push on them they can no longer push back against the weight and your client begins to feel the frame of the massage table, or when your clients get up, the foam does not spring back to its original shape.
What kind of vinyl works best on a massage table?
There are generally two types of vinyl used on massage tables and they are commonly referred to as PU (Polyurethane) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). Although you will find different opinions based on what people believe is important, in my experience I find that PU is the better choice when it comes massage therapy applications. I believe it offers better longevity and better resistance to abrasion, scratching, and puncture. And if you are thinking about how it might feel when you touch it, ask yourself if your client will actually be touching the vinyl, or will they the table be covered by a sheet set or fleece pad.
What kind of leg design system is best for massage tables?
When it comes to massage tables, almost all of the leg and support designs used by USA based companies whose primary business is related to massage therapy can be classified into 3 major groups: 1) the cradle-lock system; 2) the strut-leg design; 3) all others. Each design has unique benefits.
1: The first group, the cradle-lock design, is the most commonly used design and uses a patented design that causes the legs to open up when the massage table itself is opened up. This design is very reliable, almost fool proof, very easy to use, and uses the weight of the client on the table to tighten the cables between the legs.
2: The second group, the strut-leg design, is a little more difficult to use. However this design offers a very stable leg support system. Tables with this system have 4 wooden struts anchored at the center of the massage table: two facing forward and two facing rearward. When the table is opened, the user must pull the other end of the strut which is tucked up under each end of the frame down and place the ends into holes in the legs of the table, and then locked into place with some sort of push pin. Massage tables with this system tend to feel a little more solid under weight and when pushed forward or backward. However this does not necessarily mean that a massage table using this design will be stronger or hold more weight than a massage table with the cradle-lock leg system.
3: The third group of leg support designs is usually used on tables with an aluminum frame. The design can vary by manufacturer and is designed to minimize the weight of the massage table while still keeping it very strong.
What kind of warranty should I look for when purchasing a massage table?
Frame: Although they can vary, many massage table manufacturers now offer a lifetime frame warranty. “How can they do this” you ask? The reason is that they use good quality hard woods such as birch and maple in the frame of their massage table. Sure, it costs a little more, but it is definitely worth it! By contrast, some cheaper manufacturers use woods such as Ramen which has been described to us as a Chinese hard wood. Often you will find that tables by these manufacturers will carry a 1 year warranty and often times with regular use when that year is up you will wish you had bought a massage table with a better warranty.
Fabric: Giving a good warranty on the fabric and foam of a massage table is a little trickier. Manufacturers will offer a guarantee against the coating of the vinyl rubbing off or becoming grainy and against the foam from losing its resiliency. However, they will not warranty things such as punctures, cuts, and slices. Should you be concerned about this? Not really, not if you take good care of your table and exercise wisdom in its use. Don't allow people to sit or lie on your massage table with things like pens, pencils, and keys in their pockets. This should not be a problem because people usually remove at least their outer layer of clothing if they are serious about getting a real massage. What you should do though is carefully and closely inspect your massage table immediately upon receiving it to check for any existing tears or slits in the vinyl due to manufacturing defects or compression during shipping.
This article was written by Brian Leleux and is provided as a courtesy by MassageKing.com for informational purposes to help our customers and clients become more informed.
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