Weight A Mythic!
Updated: Jan 21
Sorry, tried to do a play on "wait a minute". Let me know if I should see myself out. This post is about weight on a massage table, with side ramblings as always. Are you missing out on the amazing experience of massage therapy because you are too self conscience? Or worse.... some therapist told you that you were too big or that you would break their massage table (yes.. sadly this has been said to people). If so, for any reason, listen up. I'm going to give you the down low on what average/decent massage tables can handle (and it's a lot more than people assume).
First, lets go over how massage tables are weight tested. Reputable tables are tested in 2-3 different categories: static weight, working (or dynamic) weight, and some do a drop test. Lets start with static weight. Static weight is how much non-moving, evenly distributed weight a massage table can handle. Picture a lifeless slab of perfectly distributed weight laying on the table. That's not even close to a real situation. It will always be the larger of the numbers. It is also the weight that some massage table manufacturers like to post as the table's weight limit. Hint: It is NOT the number people should focus on, but because it will show a higher weight limit, this number is what is sometimes and deceivingly used in advertising. We'll use three different tables as examples. The first table is an Earthlite Infinity. This Earthlite has a static weight limit of 3200 pounds. Second table is a random low quality (I wont say "cheap", because that's subjective, plus I have seen some very high quality tables for sale second hand) that was purchased new off of Amazon. The static weight of the second table is 551.2 pounds. I'm adding that this second table is used for a very tiny person who also does not handle much pressure at all. The third table is an Oakworks One. The only thing it says about weight is "weight limit: 500lbs", and after using it for almost 5 years, I'm pretty sure that is not the static weight limit of the table.
Next is working weight. Working weight is just that. What weight can the massage table handle during a massage. Dynamic movements, uneven distribution of weight, including the force exerted by the therapist performing massage on the weight of the patient/client. This is the number to focus on! But as you will read further down.. it is completely ignored sometimes. Back to the example tables, table 1, the Earthlite, has a working weight of 800 pounds. It will hold just about any weight combination of patient/therapist/massage. The second sketchy table has a working weight of 220lbs, which isn't much if you think about the client weight combined with the weight added by force of the therapist performing the session. The third, Oakworks One, as stated earlier has it's 500 pound limit, and I can attest to that limit as sometimes if a patient is sitting up, I will sit behind them on the table. Or if we are just discussing treatment plans/suggestions, we might both be sitting there chatting. If we are being honest, no one needs to be adding any more weight on a massage table than what is stated for this, working weight, limit. There is no way that I will ever be adding 3200 pounds to the Earthlite table.
Last measurement is called a drop test. Drop test is the number of pounds that can safely be dropped onto the middle of the table (a lot of massage tables fold here for easy transport) from a height of 6-8 inches. It simulates a patient/client hopping up onto a massage table. I don't remember ever seeing a drop test result in any massage table specs, so I don't have any examples of what that would look like. Know that we know which of the three is important(er)... working weight... Lets get to being worried about getting a massage.
If you were one of the unfortunate ones who were told they would break a table, I am so sad that happened to you, and my heart hurts for that experience you had to endure. Either they have one of the crap tables from Amazon, OR they are scarred from looking at a misleading static weight listed as if it was the working weight and had a table collapse on someone. Though generally... it's someone who just isn't aware of how to say that they are not comfortable working with someone who is bigger, and that they don't know how to gauge someone's weight, so they assume someone weighs a lot more than they actually do, even though there is a slim chance that a decent massage table is going to break (unless it's damaged, or someone is doing jumping jacks on it at the max working weight). Though tables have broken before!! It's usually on a big football player type body + deep tissue + un-noticed damage/loose knob on the table = accident, which also = scarred therapist and client. I absolutely hope that you find a therapist you can trust and give massage therapy another try. Usually it's because they just are not aware of their table's working weight, or are worried about "reaching deeper layers" (another post for another day), they just weren't taught how to work with bigger bodies in school. Side note: Cookie cutter bodies would be WEIRD.
If you have NOT had a damaging experience, and are just self conscience, please know that you can usually (I can't say always, because I'm not sure what therapists are in your area, and some only take appointments online) set up a time to discuss your session goals with a therapist before choosing to book an appointment there. On average, massage tables today have a typical working weight range of approximately 450 - 600 pound working weight. Which means... go get a massage! Most therapist seriously care about your well being and do not even pay attention to things that you may feel self worried about (cellulite, rolls, pit hair, leg hair, etc.). Those geeky muscle charts hanging on walls... that is what most of us see... muscles and boney landmarks with a soul.
In closing what turned out to be way longer of a post than I thought, I just want to say that big or small (another weight myth part coming soon), you matter. You deserve to work on your well-being. You deserve a safe place. You are allowed to find someone you trust to work with. You do NOT have to tolerate misinformed judgements. Really. If you need help gauging if a therapist is size friendly and you are too worried to call them directly, you can get a message to me (I am a safe, judgement free person) and I'll call and ask for you so you can remain anonymous in your local area. Just remember: You're far from likely to break many of the tables around anyway, just like the majority of us therapist absolutely care about you (a small minority may be lost, or just misinformed, but are outnumbered by the rest of us (and will usually get a kind lesson from more experienced therapist to help guide them back from the assume world)). If by some ugly chance you are told you would break the table (and there was no legit reason for it), just remember that they typically just don't know.
Massage has so many benefits to offer every body of every size. Better sleep, that in turn leads to better well being as a whole, increased quality of life, mental health benefits, pain relief, stress relief... come on.. you deserve that. Bonus that the more massages you get, the better you feel about yourself! You have to break the self conscience cycle, or it will just keep repeating.