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Do you need strong hands to be a massage therapist?

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

picture of hands, one massaging the other
Do You Need Strong Hands To Be A Massage Therapist?

One of the things we hear most as bodyworkers with long careers is “you must have strong hands!” We’ll let you in on a secret though, we don’t. One of the reasons massage therapists often have a high rate of repetitive motion injury in their shoulders, hands (specifically the thumbs) and forearms is the focus on using these small muscles to exert a lot of force. They only last so long.

The IPSB approach to bodywork is all about protecting and caring first for the practitioner and second for the client. This means that our practitioners have incredibly long careers (some of our teachers started working in the 80’s and 90’s!!). We focus on protecting the smaller muscles and joints in the upper body by focusing on generating energy and strength in the larger, stronger muscles of the lower body. Our approach to bodywork is founded in the first third of the Yang Short Form of Tai Chi that was brought to the states by Chen Men Chingin the 60’s. One of his first students Abraham Liu trained IPSB’s founders in the form and the approach to energy generation and economy of movement informs how we approach the body and working at the table. If you'd like to see one of our teachers, Leslie Prell, (recently retired) demonstrating the form check out our YouTube Channel.

You will develop really strong legs during your training and we encourage you to continue a daily or weekly practice of Tai Chi to keep yourself strong and grounded in the form and to support your body for the rest of your life. Keep an eye out for community Tai Chi classes on the schedule, they are open to anyone looking to learn or master this form. This is why many people recognize IPSB trained practitioners when they see them work, it looks like they’re dancing around the massage table, their hands, which are soft and supported, move because their legs are driving the motion. The goal is to NEVER feel discomfort in the upper body and to build a strong and flexible foundation in the lower body. If, at any point while you are in training, or after you’ve completed your training, you notice any discomfort or soreness, our generous teachers are happy to work with you in a tutorial to check your body mechanics and assess how to utilize your tools best even if you have challenges in your body.

We also encourage anyone who is experiencing a repetitive motion injury to enroll in our Core Skills class. This 24 hour class is designed specifically to help relearn supportive body mechanics and reviews the core movement concepts in Tai Chi and Qi Gong to help our alumni review and equip people who may not have trained with us with new tools to ensure they are safe while working. This course is offered in partnership with local spas and various massage businesses as a tool to prevent worker’s comp injuries. If you would like to offer this to your staff, email for further information.

We believe that bodywork is an integral part of healthy human connection and general wellness and work to ensure that our practitioners can do this work as long as they want while staying healthy themselves. We have been teaching people how to do this since 1979.


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