Massage Table Buyers Guide Part 2; Strength Rating

Submitted by Leif Montgomery

Strength Ratings/How to evaluate the strength of Portable Massage Tables

A portable massage table is actually an engineering marvel. It’s generally lightweight, portable, folds in half, and has to support up to 20 times its own weight. In choosing a portable massage table of course strength will be one of your considerations. And if you are like most people, you will look for the manufacturer’s strength rating and choose the one with the highest number. Unfortunately, like a lot of things in life, it’s not this simple. The strength ratings offered by manufactures are ambiguous, the terms are not clearly defined and it’s impossible to compare apples to apples. Some companies will not even tell you how they test their tables! You see, there is no one standard, no objective 3rd party auditing claims or agreeing on definitions or standards. You have to take all these ratings with a huge grain of sea salt from the Dead Sea. These ratings are meant to obfuscate; to confuse and muddy the waters. I dislike obfuscation. Fortunately for you, Leif is here to lead you down the righteous and enlightened path to owning a massage table. So now that you agree the ratings are mostly meaningless, or to be made fun of (see below) how do you grade strength?

I am going to show you two ways to achieve this by putting more knowledge and information into your hands and empowering you to confidently make decisions.

One way, though not scientific (but certainly as scientific as “strength ratings”) is to see how a particular table has performed over time. It’s a valid way to measure things and you probably do it with other categories of products already. Find an objective source that handles or sells lots of tables. This can be a dealer or school that handles or sells a variety of tables and can offer objective views on them.

The other way is to learn a little bit about table design. Here are the keys to good table design.

1) Raw Materials – start with components of high quality with no defects. Hardwoods in leg structures, proper gauge metal and aluminum, properly graded bolts and hardware, etc.

2) Quality Control – Inspect the raw materials for integrity and also the components at each stage of manufacturing

3) Integrated Design – the parts, hardware and components all need to work in harmony once the table is put to work and is load bearing.

Please do not take offense at this next section! I am not commenting on whether these tables are good or bad I am merely showing the crazy world of strength rating.

A Look at the wonderful world of Strength Ratings

Manufacturer Model Static Weight Rating Working Weight: also known as Max working weight, Operating weight, etc
Earthlite Spirit 3200 lbs 800 lbs
Oakworks Nova Doesn’t say 550 lbs
Pisces New Wave 2000 lbs 500 lbs
Astralite Pro 2026 lbs 450 lbs or 250 on ends
Master Champion 1500 lbs Doesn’t say
Stronglite Classic 4000 lbs Doesn’t say
Best Massage Eco Body Choice 1800 lbs 700 lbs 

We have the Eco Body Choice @ $139 with 700 working weight vs the Oakworks Nova @$400 at 550 working weight. The Oakworks Nova, with a long history and probably the most internal testing loses to a table from Best Massage. Hard to believe, unless you add in a dose of BS and hype.

Look at the difference in static weight between Stronglite (4000 lbs) and Earthlite (3200 lbs). It’s no secret that Earthlite and Stronglite are owned by the same parent company. Don’t they share their trade secrets?

Why did Astralite stop at 2026? Why not 2026.53? Is every table tested by the pound? Did just one table test to this weight and we now assume all test this this precise measurement?

Pisces sports a very average 2000 and 500lbs. Years ago, these would be great numbers. Here is some advise for Pisces: Your table lies on the floor :  Claim that it can support a Mach Truck! Then you will fit right in with the crowd!

And the winner goes to…

Master Apollo Chair (not a table, but I had to add it in!) claims 1000lbs working weight and static weight. It’s unclear which as their literature states both.  Imagine a cow running and jumping onto the chair. This would be the equivalent of 1000lbs of working weight. I am going to make a wager here – Me and my cow  break this chair before they change their strength rating.

In conclusion, if you still insist on using strength ratings, I have created, with the help of some math PhD’s, the following equation:

SR = (SW * WW) / H + BS^2

where SR = strength rating, SW = static weight, WW = working weight, H
= hyperbole factor, and BS = best guesstimate.


Predictions for 2012 Tour De France

Submitted by Desmond Slattery

Along with the usual chatter about doping and cycling politics, here is one thing that is certain. There will be a lot of MASSAGE going on.

Recently, Sue Wood and other administrators for continuing education at GotYourBack have been discussing plans for offering a certificate in Advanced Sports Massage. The substance of a successful approach to Sports Massage lies beyond the typical approach of pre/post event massage. If you want to make a living as a Sports Massage Therapist you must reach beyond this. To be a successful sports massage therapist you must get into the head of an athlete. The athlete wants one thing; to win. As a therapist your rewards come from participating in an integrated approach to help the athlete reach this goal. You become a part of their successes and their losses.  As a therapist you must also understand the coaches’ point of view, basic training principles, the demands of a particular sport and you should have a deeper understanding of “functional training.”

Our Workshop offers an innovative approach to this which involves education with athletes, coaches, advanced anatomy and physiology and hands on real world experience. More on that later (or contact Sue Wood or GotYourBack).

I wanted to share a bit on this from an article from The Telegraph:

Bradley Wiggins reveals Team Sky’s explosive secret that has put him in contention for Tour de France.

Here is part of the secret:

” We ride our bikes, get a massage, eat and then sleep. The we get up and do it again”

…..and he lives at altitude on a volcano!

From the article:

Taking a break from his training in this spectacular setting, Wiggins reveals his extraordinarily intense working environment, tailored specifically for producing a Tour de France winner. “Nothing else matters,” Wiggins says.

Since Wiggins and his colleagues started riding on the volcano last May he has won the prestigious Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandy, finished third in the Vuelta a España with metal pins in a broken collarbone, claimed silver in the time trial at the World Championships and produced a sensational performance working for Mark Cavendish at the worlds when Wiggins rode so hard on the final circuit that nobody contemplated a break. He even won a sprint finish to win a stage at the Tour of Romandy last month……

“There are no distractions. There is nowhere I fancy walking to – and cyclists don’t walk anyway. There is no internet. Well, about an hour every night if you are lucky. It’s very extreme but I like extreme. Everything is geared to one thing, achieving the fitness and form required to win the Tour de France.

“This is the level of training and the lifestyle I have always dreamed of. I could not be happier. I have a fantastically supportive wife and family – I have been at home for less than five weeks this year but they are right behind me.

Read the full story here

So come July, look for Bradley Wiggens, and maybe see massage in a whole new light.




Leif Montgomery’s Complete Guide to Buying a Portable Massage Table

Choosing a massage table is not a difficult process. In this guide I will show you how to determine your needs, choose a quality massage table and pick the best options for your table. We will look at some massage table reviews to help in your search. This portion covers portable massage tables. Join me in another segment, where I will cover stationary and electric lift massage tables and a more detailed review of options.


Budget – Cost is the first consideration in purchasing a massage table. Decide on your budget. Lower cost does not necessarily equal lower quality. I never recommend sacrificing quality in choosing a table. Follow my recommendations to get the best table with the correct options, for your needs. I am placing the cut off point at a minimum of $200 (with shipping) for a complete table (table, head rest and carry case). You can go cheaper but the return on investment becomes less compelling when you decide that $89 sounds like a great price for a table! There is no point in purchasing something that is not suited to your needs or compromises your client or receivers comfort or relaxation all for the sake of saving $25.

Table Type – To make your decision easier, I find it useful to group massage tables in categories; Entry Level, Professional, and Lightweight.

Entry Level Massage Table:  If your budget is limited, this is where your search will begin.  Perhaps you are a student or potential student, want a table for home use, or are not ready for a higher end table. Your goal and focus will be on maintaining quality, buying a table with a sound foundation and solid reputation. You will need to skip some of the more expensive options (which you may be able to purchase later after market), and zero in on the specifications that suit your body and treatment style.

Gimmicks to avoid: (1) in an effort to reduce costs some manufactures will resort to “seconds” quality in the raw material to build the table. In most cases a “cosmetic” flaw would not bother me as long as it doesn’t affect the stability or construction. An example of a cosmetic flaw might be a discoloration or small tear in the fabric. If however there is a knot in the wood in the wrong place it can dramatically weaken the table making it prone to splits and cracks which are the most dangerous type of table malfunction. (2)”Thick” foam in cheap tables; quality foam is expensive and if the table is cheap and the foam thicker than you would expect you should be skeptical. Nothing feels worse or wears out faster than cheap foam. You can always add a layer or quality fleece pad to your table later for additional padding. (3) Quality control/Reputation: the construction of the table and the reputation of the company, especially if you care about after service, should factor into your considerations. Do your own research, discuss with your school or talk to an objective distributor to gather information. A little thing like a broken head rest or an end plate not fastened correctly could create a lot of grief and time lost for you.

My Entry Level Picks

  1. Zen Massage Table
  2. Innerstrength Element
  3. Stronglite Standard  Massage Table

Professional Massage Table: Purchasing a professional table generally gives you more freedom to customize your table and the certainty that you are getting the best quality construction and raw materials like wood, foam and fabric. Professional Massage Tables often have layered foam, high quality fabric and the option to choose from various widths to suit your height and style. Higher quality materials can add weight to your table so expect a professional table to weigh in between 30 and 35 pounds. Professional massage tables offer more comfort and support and often have standard features like reinforced open (Reiki) endplates or rounded corners.

My Professional Level Picks

  1. Earthlite Spirit Massage Table
  2. Oakworks Nova Massage Table
  3. Nirvana 2n1 Massage Table

Lightweight Massage Tables:  If you plan on transporting your massage table or if outcalls make up a large portion of your business you will want to consider a lightweight table. The savings in wear and tear to your body can be significant. If built correctly, lightweight tables will provide all the strength and quality of a regular massage table at a much lighter weight. This weight savings is accomplished by using lightweight aluminum alloy in place of wood on the under structure and creatively using foam layers to retain comfort yet keep the table light. I don’t recommend adding additional foam to your table because foam adds weight and cost which defeats the purpose of buying a lighter table. Additionally, some manufacturers are using innovative materials (aluminum and ballistic fabric) in place of traditional (wooden) table top frames which are usually made of poplar and plywood. A true lightweight table should be 25 pounds or less. Some manufactures offer lightweight tables that are over 25 pounds so I am going to break lightweights down into 2 categories; super lightweight and lightweight.

My Super Lightweight Picks

  1. Pisces New Wave Massage Table
  2. Dharma Super Lite Massage Table

My Lightweight Picks (26 pounds or more – still lighter than a wooden table)

  1. Stronglite Versalite Massage Table
  2. Oakworks Wellspring Massage Table
  3. Earthlite Luna Massage Table

Table Specifications

Width:  The average table width for a wooden table is 30 inches wide (76cm) and, slightly less for lightweights which is more like 29 inches (74cm). The factors to consider for table width are as follows:

(1) Bulk – if you are transporting your table any extra width is bulk you need to lug around. Lightweight massage tables tend to be on the more narrow side in order to avoid the bulk factor.

(2) Client Comfort – New students tend to favor client comfort and therefore may choose a table that is too wide or too heavy for them. Choose wisely – remember a practitioner in pain is not going to give a good treatment! Therefore choosing your table width should be a balance between your comfort and your client’s comfort. The goal is to maintain proper body mechanics while keeping your clients happy. If you practice a modality that requires your client including their arms to fit on the table in supine position then you will need a 32 inch+ wide table. The reason a wider table can be problematic is that the practitioner will need to reach further across the table to work. This has the potential to create back pain in shorter therapists or those with existing muscular / skeletal conditions. Some practitioners like physical therapists prefer a narrower table so they can get in really close and practice range of motion techniques (see later in article).

Length:  The table length is usually fixed at 72-73 inches (185cm). This length seems to accommodate all body types and styles. When lying prone (face down), the removable head rest option adds another 12 inches (30cm) of length. When lying in supine position a bolster can be used under the knees to effectively shorten the height of your client. It is customary to remove the head rest in supine position however, if you have a very tall client you can use the head rest as a pillow pad for the clients head and let the feet fall over the end. Most tables also have the option to add a footrest which typically gives you another 9 inches in of length.

Table Height:  Ideal table height is determined by several factors: personal preference and ergonomics, modality or style performed, and advice and direction from your massage school (hopefully they taught this!). Almost all tables come standard with adjustable height approximately 24 inches (60cm) to 34 inches (86 cm). This height range accommodates most practitioner heights and preference combinations. If you fall outside of this range, you will need a custom built height range. Several manufactures offer this. Call around if you require this. The height adjustment is achieved through a simple process of knobs (single or double) and adjusting the leg height, or push button in the case of aluminum lightweights. Generally, there are approximately 8 height choices within the lowest and highest range.

Foam:  More foam does not equal better foam! Foam quality is related to the density of the foam not the thickness. The trick with massage tables is to create a comfortable and supportive surface without tipping the scales. Watch out for cheap tables with 3″ or even 6″ of foam. You might end up with a “brick” of foam which is either mostly air or hard as a rock. Better foams will have a firm supportive base yet feel plush. Often times the more creative manufactures will layer foam to create a better working surface. Remember, in massage not only are you lying on the table, but you are being pressed, kneaded and rolled. You do not want mush for foam!

Table Surface: This is a first! You will not see any other massage table reviews discussing table surface as a choice. I am happy to be breaking new ground here. Lying down on a massage table can be uncomfortable especially in prone position. Why? Because the table is flat but the body is not!  A head rest is nice, and a bolster under the ankles as well but how about the rest of the body? Ideally we want the skeletal structure to support the pressure and not the soft tissue. When you think about this it makes total sense. Not only is the recipient more comfortable, but the treatment and relaxation process more effective with better support. Therefore, I ask you to consider this along with everything else as you make your table choice. Probably in the future, this will be standard equipment.

My Pick for the most ergonomic table surface:

Nirvana Massage Table (the leader of the pack)

Already have a table, but are convinced table surface ergonomics makes sense? Read on below for table accessories we will consider.

Fabric:   Fabric should be both durable and easy to clean. Fabric technology has come a long way in the last few years. While still synthetic material, the new materials are much nicer, softer and more environmentally friendly. Older and cheaper massage tables use fabrics with PVC (vinyl plastic) which is more damaging to the environment and releases harmful chemicals through a process called out gassing. The most reputable manufacturers use higher quality fabrics which are polyurethane based PVC free. Some manufacturers offer a higher quality vinyl called ultra leather. Ultra leather is typically PVC free, softer, lighter weight and more expensive. While I love this fabric the standard that comes on most quality massage tables is very sufficient. I do recommend the upgrade for lightweight tables if you can afford it because it will save 1 to 2 lbs of weight. At 34lbs for a regular table the weight savings will hardly be noticeable, but at 25lbs the weight savings does make a difference.

Table Options

Face Rests:  Face Rests provide more comfort for face down massage by supporting the face with a pillow pad and alleviating stress on the neck. Most are removable and use extensions which insert at either end of the table. Face rests or face holes that are built into the table are also available but less common. Keep in mind these will effectively shorten the table in prone position and require specially cut fitted sheets. There are many different styles and types of face rests. The most common are “Straight” head rests which are non-adjustable but very stable. Adjustable Head Rests typically adjust in tilt and height. Moving parts can create the potential (although rare) for damage. There is a range of headrests and new technology in foam and adjustments which I will review in more detail in another segment.

Bolsters:  Bolsters come in a variety of shapes and sizes from fully round to flat on one side to semi round. They are traditionally used to support under the ankles in prone position, and the knees and neck in supine position.

Arm Shelf/Table Extension/Side Arm Extenders:  Sometimes it is useful to add some length or width to your table. The table extension is inserted into the head rest outlet holes and adds approx. 12″ of length to your table. The universal side arm extenders (bolster armrests) add approx 4 inches (10 cm) on either side (total 8 inches, 20 cm) of your table. Bolster Armrests can be adjusted to fit most tables. They are attached by straps which drape across the table surface and then are further secured with Velcro on the inside table top frame and a snap closure under the table top. Although they will not support total body weight they are surprisingly secure. Arm Shelves are a nice option to support the arms under the face rest. Arm shelves come in a variety of styles, from the simplest arm sling to shelves screwed directly into the table leg or secured from the above table top rail. Most can be used on a variety of tables but some are manufacturer specific.

Carry Cases: Carry cases like head rests are usually included in the purchase of the table. They can also be purchased separately. The case is designed to protect your table and fabric. The bottom of the case is reinforced with tougher material to protect against abrasion. There are several handles and a shoulder strap to make transporting easier. You will find single pocket and multi pocket designs to help carry your accessories. Some cases have wheels attached. I prefer a table cart, which you may take on and off as needed. The case with wheels adds bulk which will require you to list the table higher as you go up steps or stairs.

Linens:  Keep your table fabric looking new with these tips. Never allow oil to remain on your table fabric. Over time oil will dry out and crack the fabric. Clean oil stains immediately with a soap and water or suitable mild cleaner. Linens can help protect your table from oils and tears by creating a barrier between sharp objects and the surface of your table. I usually leave tears alone. Some people choose to use a vinyl repair kit. You can find these in any hardware store. Most practitioners use cotton flannel linens. These are custom made to fit massage tables. A sheet set includes a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and a crescent cover for the face rest. Also common are cotton/poly and interlock jersey sheets. If you do outdoor or sports massage, I find fitted plastic sheets very useful and protective.

Positioners:  As promised above, no discussion of massage tables would be complete without a discussion of positioning. The hest rest and bolster will address the immediate need for properly supporting the head, neck and lower legs. For the torso, in prone position, here are the 3 items I find most effective:

Nirvana Body Wedges:  These simple triangular wedges are designed to fit right under the hips, specifically supporting the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). The further they are inserted, the higher the hips are supported. This can reduce pressure on the low back.

Body Cushion:  This is almost like a massage table on a massage table. Through a series a contoured foam layers, a hip support, a torso support and a head rest, a platform is designed to support the body’s skeletal structure while keeping pressure off areas of soft tissue like the breasts and stomach.

Nirvana Mate: This achieves the same goal as the body cushion in a simpler system at a fraction of the cost. The Nirvana Mate uses contouring and soft tissue recesses to achieve a more comfortable and effective treatment. The Mate is a perfect after market product for those wanting the ergonomics offered in the Nirvana Massage Table but already have a flat table.

Whew! I’m exhausted. I think I gave you a good bit of information to digest for now and hopefully enough for you to make and informed purchase.  Good luck!


Table Talk; Massage News From Around The World

News Picks by Desmond Slattery

Massage goes extreme (New York Times)
When I did massage I skipped the new age music and went for classical, but my favorite was Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Clients didn’t seem to mind.  Listen Here

Read 2 great articles on Pet Massage here (New York Times) and here (Livingston
Reiki or Deep Tissue? What type of massage does your pet prefer?

2 great articles on the field of Massage from the New York Times
Here and Here.
The sections that got me interested referred to the beneficial effects on recovery and production of mitochondria. As a former competitive cyclist, I was all too familiar with the stories of doping in the pro ranks. One of the key attributes of doping is speeding recovery. Recently, I just learned of some amateur athletes that I used to race with, busted for doping. The point here is, athletes go to extremes to gain an edge. Properly trained sports massage therapists can take advantage of this and offer safe, legal “doping”.

Do-It Yourself Massage (New York Times)
Is it like the real thing?  I don’t think so!

Are you charging what you are worth? (Las Vegas Examiner)
Check out what top spas are charging for Warm Bamboo and Thai Poultice Treatments

Masseuse arrested after massage not good PR but then check out their 5 star rating…yelp, gulp, burp!

New from the Dark Ages (Beloit Daily News) Massage Therapists shouldn’t conduct business within 100 feet of a church? REALLY?

Not my cup of tea. I am self-conscious enough just doing the poses and I never want to “win” the class! The Corpse Pose is more my speed.
Bashing Goldman Sachs (Huffington Post)
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve noticed that the NYTimes, Bloomberg, CNN, etc have all joined Leif Montgomery in bashing Goldman Sachs. See Leif’s post from March 6, 2012. I suggest starting a “Doing God’s Work” drawing each month.  Send in your nominees or stories of charitable or good works in the massage world.

Leif Montomery’s complete guide to choosing a massage lubricant

Submitted by Leif Montgomery, VNH

One of the most common questions I get asked is: “How do I choose a massage lubricant”?

Massage Lubricants are used to reduce friction, allowing optimal interaction between the practitioner and receiver.

The main characteristics of Massage Lubricants are glide and viscosity:

Glide:  Glide refers to the amount of friction or control.

On one side the spectrum you have acupressure, or trigger point work, where no glide is desirable. Here, there will be no or very little lubricant used.

On the other end, you have very superficial or circulatory massage, where there will be a lot of slip, and only the top layers of tissue affected.

In between those two extremes, we have the varying degrees of friction allowing deeper work into the tissue.  While massage lubricants are designed to stay on the skin surface, each will have varying degrees of uptake (The Absorption Rate) into the skin.  This will affect the amount of glide.

Viscosity: Viscosity refers to the thickness of the lubricant.  Oil has the lowest viscosity, very liquid, and cream the highest. Within the categories of massage lubricants, there are also varying degrees of viscosity.  For instance, there are thinner oils (fractionated coconut), or heavier blends of oils (Almond), as well as thicker or less dense creams.

What is the correct Glide/Viscosity Factor (GVF) for you?

Determining your optimal Glide/Viscosity Factor (GVF) will depend on several factors:

  1. Personal Preference
  2. Modality or Technique Performed
  3. Desired Outcome

1. Personal Preference
There is no right or wrong here.  With experience, each practitioner will find their sweet spot or correct GVF .  You will probably hear the statement that oil is used for Swedish massage and cream for deep tissue.  That is an over generalization or simplification.  The fact is, many experienced practitioners use oil and a variety of lubricants for advanced or deeper massage and conversely, creams can be used for Swedish massage.  You will come to find which lubricant type you prefer and learn to use it correctly to achieve the desired outcome.

2. Modality or Technique Performed
The modality or technique performed will determine the amount of grip/friction and glide needed.  Swedish massage, and modalities focusing on circulation, require a fair amount of glide.  Trigger point, Myo Fascial, and Deep Tissue require less glide and more grip.

Is your massage treatment general and gliding, specific and deep, fast or slow?…… all of these questions will determine your GVF.

3. Desired Outcome
Another factor to consider for your GVF is desired outcome.  Generally speaking, the massage lubricant is secondary to the reason people get a massage from you – your hands or manual skills.  The lubricant just facilitates this and is not the focus.  However, there may be other considerations to ponder: the “oiliness” factor left on a client after the session, care of linens, moisturizing or skin care effects, and therapeutic properties of the lubricant.

Categories of  Massage Lubricants

On the viscosity scale, oil is the least viscous, most liquid.  Because of this, it has a high glide coefficient and is suitable for treatments or modalities requiring less friction.  However, as stated above, there is some wiggle room here.  Use very little oil, and friction increases.   Because oil is liquid, it can be messy and easily spilled…. something to consider.  Pump Bottles and Holsters can help keep your treatment space clean.

Further considerations:  Because oils contain no water, they require little or no preservative.  Vitamin E is sometimes added to act as a preservative, but its effectiveness in this capacity is up for debate.  However, use caution.  Oils can turn rancid very quickly.  My nose can sense this very quickly.  I have known practitioners to use oil well beyond its freshness date.  The easiest way to determine freshness is to do the smell test.  If it smells like vanish or polish, it’s bad.  Most oils have little or no scent.  Some, like olive and jojoba, have distinctive scents and you can readily distinguish between its inherent scent, and rancidity.  Scented oils will make freshness harder to determine.

Types:  Most manufacturers produce blends of oils for massage.  Read the ingredient list on the bottle to determine what’s in your oil, or see our ingredient guides on the below links.

Let’s look at some specific oil properties:

Almond (and other nut oils) – Almond oil is a common ingredient in many oils.  However, nut oils as of late, have become ingredient non grata.  I think some if this is unfounded and nut oil allergies are overstated. It could very well be rancidity causing the issues.

Grapeseed Oil –  I love the oil.  It is super moisturizing and beneficial for the skin and has medium viscosity within the oil family.  Please note, grapeseed oil can be very staining to clothes and linens!

My favorites – Coconut and Jojoba. This is my preferred blend for the following reasons:  they are very stable, meaning have a long shelf life (well over 1 year without any preservatives).  They are also very clean was wash easily out of linens, a big bonus.

Coconut Oil is solid at room temperature.  Fractionated Coconut Oil is the liquid form of coconut oil. This is, in fact, a much more desirable form of coconut oil, because it is much more stable than regular coconut oil and retains a higher percentage of its anti oxidant properties.  Technically, this is achieved by removing almost all the long chain triglycerides present in the oil (which is the least stable portion prone to oxidation), via the safe process of hydrolysis and steam distillation.

Jojoba Oil is actually a wax ester, not strictly an oil.  However, it has the appearance and viscosity of an oil, so we refer to it commonly as such. Pure Natural Jojoba  (pronounced ho-ho’ba), is a botanical extract derived from jojoba seeds producing the pure liquid esters.  Because of its oxidative stability and complex structure of long chains of fatty acids, Jojoba is the ideal lubricant for massage and skin health.

Coconut and Jojoba, like my favorite beer and coffee, are also more expensive than standard oils.

My pick, which includes both Coconut and Jojoba, is Pure Lite Oil by Solace.

Gels are a very popular lubricant choice for many practitioners.  Gels are produced by starting with an oil and adding a wax base, producing a thicker oil with a higher viscosity.  Proponents of gel claim it has glide of an oil, with the workability of a lotion.  Treating dry skin or working  through hairy skin may benefit from the use of gels.

Popular gels include Biotone Advanced Therapy Massage Gel the original and one of the best is hypoallergenic and Bon Vital Original and Naturale Massage Gel with added botanicals.

Biotone Healthy Benefits – their latest, it’s new.  Send me your feedback on it!

Lotions take us up the viscosity scale and also introduce the use of water into the equation.  This has the following ramifications:  Water and Oil do not mix – necessitating the need of  emulsifiers, stabilizers and similar substances.

Preservatives – when you add water, unless you plan on using it quick or freezing it, you must add a preservative, or else you will produce a science experiment like in high school.  Remember those? Lotion, while more viscous than oils and gels, are all easily pumpable, whether from the Gallon jug or 4 or 8 oz bottles.  There are many lotions on the market.  All will have similar viscosity, but the texture and feel will be slightly different across the board.  A lotion’s overall characteristics will be determined by how the manufacture creates the water/oil emulsion, via the stabilizing agents and ingredients used. I urge you to have fun and test and experiment with lotions.

Notable Lotions:

Biotone Nutri Naturals Lotion
Soothing Touch Jojoba Lotion
Sacred Earth Warming Lotion
Bon Vital Therapeutic Touch Lotion

Creams represent the thickest or highest viscosity of all the lubricants.  When considering a cream, keep in mind that the thickest choices are not pumpable.  Non pumpable creams can be applied from a jar or a tube. Many tubes are refillable for convenience.  The correct procedure here is to draw from a bulk jug (gallon or half gallon) via a clean spatula or spoon, into a jar or tube.  If a jar is used, it must be cleaned and refreshed for each client.  Please note, for creams that are pumpable, these pumps are heavier duty than those pumps for lotion.  Do not attempt to use  lotion or oils pumps for cream!

Nice cream to try:  Sacred Earth makes a 21oz size Vegan Massage Cream with a powerful pump.

Soothing Touch Massage Creams:  Please note: The Gallon sizes are pumbable.  The 62oz and 13oz sizes are not.  Perplexing, I agree.

Again, like lotions, there are countless types of cream for you to try and experiment with.  Each will have its own unique overall feel.

No discussion of massage creams would be complete without a discussion of Biotone Dual Purpose Cream, uh, Creme, that is, from Biotone.  This is without a doubt, the standard, the original, the cream (creme) that all others are judged by.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Biotone is top dog of the creams.  The shear number of copycats is mind boggling, and the tortured names to try and ride Dual Purposes coat tails is bewildering:  Multi Purpose,  All Purpose, and so on.  I suggest On Purpose, or Tri Purpose!  Anyone else have some good names?

Something has troubled me for a long time. What does “dual purpose” stand for? I think the answer is in this next clip.  Watch LaVelle from Biotone:

Nice job LaVelle!  You get the Lief Montgomery thumbs up for clear product presentation and Biotone mission statement.  However, I did catch an error. Dual Purpose does not come in 1/2 Gallon size. It is actually a confounding 68oz – 1/2 Gallon + 4 oz.  Like the mysterious “Dual Purpose” definition, LaVelle, please clear up thought behind the size choice.  Is it a  Feng Shui thing, or maybe a metric thing?  You do prefer the French creme to the more common cream.  Merci.

You will find a lot of labels, like Natural and Organic, thrown around on products these days. Customers make a lot of assumptions about what these mean.  I have also found that it’s hard to get a straight answer from anyone on this subject.

The term Natural is so broad, general, vague, mis-used and abused, to make it practically irrelevant.  I recommend disregarding the “Natural” label and carefully reading the labels and ingredient list to make sure it fits your needs and expectations.

Here are some of the additives I found in a popular  “Natural” massage cream: (Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Carbomer)

How’s that for “natural”!

The Organic label is very similar.  Perhaps there will be several organic ingredients in the list, with the rest a mix of Latin and multi syllable chemical structures you might even hesitate before putting in your car’s radiator.  Just kidding! I am exaggerating, a little. Just read the label please!

The hypoallergenic label usually refers to products free of any fragrance, scents, or nut oils.  This does not guarantee that it will not cause allergies or irritation to someone.  Always test first with sensitive types.  Oddly enough, we find the toughest reaction and allergy issues are resolved by using a completely unnatural solution…. Petroleum based lubricants  You would be surprised at how many common (and high end!) consumer moisturizers and lotions are either petroleum based or have some petroleum derivatives in the ingredient list.

The Vegan label is perhaps the most interesting of them all.  Vegan?  Sacred Earth is the only brand I know of spouting this label.  Does this mean that Bon Vital and Biotone are not?  I am familiar with Vegan in terms of food – the lack of animal products.  I am pretty sure that none of the major brands we are discussing here include animal products.

On this same theme, many massage lubricant manufacturers advertise that they do not test their products on animals.  I find this hard to believe.  I get lots of samples of massage oils, lotions and cream in my travels.  I take them home and always test it on my dog first.  And she LOVES IT!!!! So listen up manufacturers, you have it backwards.  Label it, Certified Massage tested on animals and they LOVED IT! You can thank Leif for that.

So now we come to the topic of ingredients.  For some reason, people freak out about their massage lubricant over certain ingredients.  For instance, parabens has been all but excluded as an additive.  I understand the concern and agree that I want products as clean, fresh and high quality as possible. But please do not freak out on Lief until you checked the ingredient list from all the products, soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, make up, deodorants, in your own bathroom.  If they are all “pure”, then go ahead and freak out.  The fact is, across the board, the massage lubricants that I mention here from the major manufacturers are as high quality, or higher quality, that those products in general use by most people.  So rest assured please.  If you happen to be particularly discerning, demand strict purity, will not use any preservative, then you will have to do a little extra work, pay higher prices, and make some compromises.  We will compile a complete ingredient list for you to reference of the major massage lubricants as well as a glossary of some of the more esoteric ingredients you’ll come across. (Look for this in about 1 week)

Additives – Specialty
As I mentioned earlier, the focus of the massage treatment is the massage/manual skills of the practitioner.  The choice of the lubricant, with the correct GVF, merely facilitates this.  Additives refer to the addition of herbs, extracts, and essences to achieve a biologic effect, as well as add a little scent.  Examples include arnica, ivy, or ilex herbs, extracts of seaweed, algae, and essences of lavender, chamomile, ginger, etc.  There are many different additives used in lubricants.  Here is a partial list with functions.  (coming soon)

The specialty lubricants I am referring to are the ones creating heat or cold sensations when applied.  These will be used alone as a topical treatment, or in conjunction with massage/manual treatment.  The active ingredient that creates the heat/cool effect is Menthol or Camphor or a combination of the two.  The higher the concentration of Menthol, the stronger the effects. If you are doing spot treatments, higher concentration is OK.  If you are including massage to the area, or even full body massage, lower concentration is advised.  Please keep in mind, as I am sure you are aware, there is a smell associated with these products.

Biofreeze – most common and popular.  Strong, used for spot work or re sold for clients to take home and apply.
Biotone Polar Lotion
Soothing Touch Herbal Heat or Herbal Ice
Bon Vital Sport Gel
Tiger Balm

I have heard it mentioned that practitioners sometimes dilute these formulas by adding to unscented lotions or creams and using as a whole body lubricant.  Not my cup of tea, but some might find it useful.

Cost Per Treatment
A useful and illuminating exercise is to determine your lubricant cost per treatment.  I mention this because I lean toward using high quality products and ingredients.

Many practitioners feel they are constrained by price.  So lets do the math.  The rule of thumb is 1oz of cream used per treatment.  For oils of lotions, it may be a little higher than 1oz.  So for a base price of $50 per Gallon of Cream, you would perform 128 treatments.  This works out to around 40 cents per treatment.  So lets say on the high end we use a $90 cream.  This equals 70 cents.  A $25 cream (I do not know any, nor do I want to!…..knowing some major ingredient/water substitution would need to be made) equals 20 cents.  Using that formula and tweaking for your preferences and use should give you some perspective on the money factor.  Is 40-60 cents unreasonable per treatment?  As an independent practitioner, using a cheaper lubricant and saving 15 cents per treatment saves about $5 a week based on 30 treatments.  If you are a clinic or spa owner, with multiple rooms, that changes the equation and you will have to decide what is appropriate.  Keep this in mind, you can always advertise that you use such and such expensive formula in your treatments, sending the message that you care and are focused on the details.  Conversely, you would not want it be to known, you use cheap brand X! I once heard that mineral oil (baby oil) was being used in those massage store fronts popping up all over New York and the East Coast.  Why not motor oil (recycled)!

If you do use a high end product, you may want to consider offering retail sizes for re sale, or give samples free if you prefer, for take home.  The take home product would be an altered version of the massage lubricant, because honestly speaking, massage lubricants are not the best choice for home skin care and moisturizing (they are designed for massage).  We can discuss this idea more in a later segment.

I need to add this section because I find people often stumble over ounce/Gallon conversions.  So we do not embarrass ourselves, let’s study the following!

128oz = Gallon
64oz = ½ Gallon
32oz = Quart
16oz = Pint
8oz =  Cup
Now, if you say crème and I say cream, tomato/tomato, then we’ll go metric:

1 liter = 33.8140226 US fluid ounces
1 Gallon = 3.78 liters

Laundry Care and Precaution
The combination of linens, oil, and heat can create a combustible combination during drying and storage.  Use care, lower temperature settings in the dryer and read your dryers manufacturer guidelines for care of linens that have been exposed to oil.

Best practices for care and cleaning of your linens.  Clean your linens as soon as possible after use. The longer they sit with oil, the more difficult it will be to clean.  Try not to overuse your massage lubricant, otherwise all the excess will end up on the sheets.   As we stated above, certain oils are much cleaner and easier to launder out of sheets than others, lotions and even more so creams tend to collect less in linens.  If you find difficulty in getting your sheets clean, consider a specialty detergent designed to work just on getting out oil.  Eventually, you will have to replace your sheets. Just the cost of doing business.  If they are stained and have a rancid smell, do not delay in replacing. Customers pick up on queues and make judgments based on this.  You want to present your best image.

Leif Montgomery, vegan, natural and hypoallergenic, VNH

P.S. I’ve heard rumors from P.E.T.A. that vegans have more fun….

Doing God’s Work

Submitted by Leif Montgomery
Every time I hear reference to “doing God’s work”, my jaw clenches, muscles tighten and I get indigestion. Invariably, it reminds me of the statement made by Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. See the story here:
Perhaps this is again a case of journalistic sloppiness, where they simply mis quoted the subject. Maybe he said, “NOT doing God’s work”, or “doing anti-God’s work”, or “I never do God’s work”.
It’s preposterous that Goldman Sachs, this ineptly run, non-productive, failed business could be mistaken for doing God’s work. My kids lemonade stand is better run and has a business model light years ahead of Goldman Sachs. Remember, this is the institution that was on the verge of failure and sure to go under, because of massive poor judgment and bad bets, that called in a few favors from its cronies in the government and went from being an investment bank to a bank holding company. Any of you have a bank account with Goldman? This allowed it to receive corporate welfare and bailout money from guess who? You, gracious taxpayer. This was a textbook example of where corporate euthanasia would have been well advised.
If you missed the wonderfully colorful takedown of Goldman by Rolling Stone’s Matt Tabbai, catch it here:
Now, back to who is really doing God’s work. I am sure you can think of much better candidates for this title. I propose you include yourself, the Massage Therapist/Bodyworker in the running. Here is a field, for the most part, given up by the medical world and physical therapists. Nobody really wants to do the hands on, manual, time consuming hard work. Most take the easy pill/drugs route, assembly line, or medical billable route. The world is starved for good old fashioned bodywork. Sometimes it can be a lonely existence, choosing an alternative career, following  a passion simply to do good work.
So I propose the following:
In exchange for bailing out Goldman Sachs from certain death, I propose that all Goldman Sachs employees, starting with Lloyd Blankfein, carry the massage tables for all therapists that do house calls, or do the laundry all of all bodyworkers with offices.
One more thing, if you ever find yourself in doubt about your effectiveness or lonely in your work, make an appointment with a bodywork you respect, and experience how great you and God’s work is.

You Don’t Need Sleep Either!

Post by Lief Montgomery
Dear Friends,
I did have one glass of pure water since my last post.
Following up on my last post of a little myth busting
See link here if you missed it: How much water is enough?
I now turn my attention to the matter of sleep.
It turns out that my habit of falling asleep in the middle of the day is not that unusual.
So while it is not accurate that you do not need any sleep, you do not need to collect it all in an 8 hr stretch.
Read the entire fascinating story here:
Please, add your comment and send your stories and myth busting ideas……………….
Lief  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz