The Definitive Guide to Portable Massage Tables

woman receiving massage on massage table

Today’s market for portable massage tables presents the prospective buyer with a bewildering array of different models and specifications. In fact, because of their convenience and low cost, they now dominate massage table sales. That’s not to say there isn’t still a healthy demand for stationary massage tables and it’s important to carefully consider what your requirements are before committing to one or the other.

Ignoring the issue of portability and based on a consideration of their core functions only, stationary massage tables generally offer a higher standard in terms of overall quality and durability. The reasons for this are due to the fact that the same design and weight constraints which govern the manufacture of portable or folding massage tables don’t apply to the same extent to their stationary counterparts. So, while a portable unit might be a cheaper option, if portability is not an essential factor, a stationary table will, in many cases at least, represent a better long term investment.

Stationary massage tables are generally the preferred option for spas and other professional establishments. They are also suitable for home users whose massage services are performed in a room expressly set aside for that purpose.

Assuming you have already deliberated on these considerations and subsequently concluded that a portable massage table offers the best solution for your requirements, let’s take a look at some of the most important factors relevant to a critical assessment or comparison.

These factors can be summarised in the following list, after which we will briefly examine each of them in turn in order to explain their significance.

  • size and weight
  • warranty
  • comfort
  • stability
  • features and accessories
  • materials
  • price

Size and Weight

These aspects have obvious implications in the context of a discussion concerning portable massage tables. This is because they are directly related to a table’s portability, or lack thereof. Is the table light enough for you to carry and move around comfortably on your own? Is it compact enough when disassembled to be easily loaded into, and unloaded from, your car? These are just some of the questions that should be taken into account when assessing a table’s suitability. Of course, the importance and relevance of these questions will depend on how frequently you travel outside your home or place of business to attend to your clients.

Another question worth considering is whether or not the table is large enough to accommodate a wide variety of body types, especially those taller than average. A wider table will also be more comfortable for clients, but you need to balance this, and the length of the table, against its size and weight so you have something that is manageable for you as well as sufficiently comfortable for the client. If you do travel frequently to visit clients, consider investing in a table cart to lighten the load and avoid straining yourself.

Warranty

As with any product, a warranty or money back guarantee is highly desirable. By safeguarding against the premature malfunction of the product or it’s failure to function as claimed or advertised, a warranty gives you peace of mind and instills a greater sense of confidence in the product as well as trust in the manufacturer. It’s important however, to carefully read and understand the terms and conditions that apply to a particular warranty so you know exactly where you stand from a legal perspective, should anything go wrong. Most portable massage tables carry warranties ranging from between 1 and 5 years, with a few even offering a limited lifetime warranty. A limited warranty is the most common type of warranty and covers only those parts or systems specified by the manufacturer or retailer.

Comfort

This is definitely one of the most important aspects to consider when buying a massage table. Relaxation and a general sense of wellbeing are often at least part of the goal of massage and this is difficult to achieve while in a state of discomfort. Even when therapeutic benefits are emphasized over relaxation, it goes without saying that some basic level of comfort is a necessary and expected part of the overall experience. Fortunately, portable massage tables from almost any reputable manufacturer will meet this minimum requirement, although some are, of course, better equipped than others. As regards padding, high density foam is the material of choice. HD foam has the advantage of being lightweight while also providing excellent support and durability. Look for a table deck with at least 2 inches of foam.

Stability

Due to the inherent weaknesses imposed by the design of folding massage tables, this feature deserves particular attention. It would be fair to say, however, that having confidence in a table’s strength and physical integrity is probably the most basic requirement for any table to be worthy of consideration. The potential for injury occurring as a result of mechanical failure should not be underestimated. Not only is this a safety concern, it also raises issues related to liability.

Table specifications vary between models which means some are built to a higher standard than others. Load bearing capacity is probably the most important concept to consider in the present context. This is commonly expressed in terms of static weight and working weight. Static weight is simply the maximum load or “dead weight” a table can support. Due to the fact that various dynamic forces are applied to a table when in use, static weight, on its own, is not a reliable indicator of that table’s load bearing capacity in real world situations. Working weight, therefore, is based on calculations which take those dynamic forces into account. Obviously, it is better to err on the side of caution here, and so you should insist on a table with a static weight rating of at least 2,000 pounds. The approximate ratio of static weight to working weight is 4:1, so this translates into a working weight of approximately 500 pounds.

Most portable massage tables use steel tensioning cables to prevent buckling and to provide the table with sufficient rigidity. Generally speaking, the higher the quality and tensile strength of these cables, the better the table is equipped to handle excessive loading and other stresses.

Features and Accessories

Today’s portable massage tables come with a range of different features and accessories designed to provide greater flexibility and convenience for both therapists and clients alike.

Adjustable height is a feature common to almost all modern tables. This allows for the table deck to be raised or lowered to accommodate people of differing heights and body proportions. It also allows for adjustments to be made as required by different forms of massage therapy. There are two basic height adjustment mechanisms corresponding to the two main types of materials used in the construction of portable massage tables. Wooden tables have either 1 or 2 twist knobs while aluminium tables have a simpler mechanism which involves pushing a button then sliding the table leg and locking it into the desired position. The mechanism on wooden tables is very easy to operate but is more time consuming as it requires the knob or knobs to be unfastened and then refastened again after adjusting the length of the table leg. Although it takes slightly longer, a table with two knobs provides better stability, and is, therefore, safer than a table with a single knob.

Detachable face cradles are another common accessory. On some tables the angle of these can be adjusted to provide even greater comfort and support. Breathe holes are often included and can be used as an alternative to a face cradle. To open the breathe hole, a small section of the deck is removed and replaced again when not in use. Some tables feature arm rests which can be attached to either side of the table deck. Alternatively, an arm cradle or sling may be provided which allow for the client’s arms to be placed in a forward position instead of to the side.

An adjustable back rest can prove advantageous in certain situations and adds and extra element of versatility. This option is available on a number of different models at all points of the price spectrum.

There are also a variety of other accessories such as bolsters, heating pads, covers and carry cases.

Materials

The choice here is between wood and aluminium although there are some hybrid tables that incorporate both into their designs. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages; however, when comparing tables, it’s important to note that neither type is necessarily better than the other. There are high and low quality wooden tables just as there are high and low quality aluminium tables which is why you should assess each table on its own merits and according to your individual requirements. Having said that, aluminium tables have the advantage of being stronger and lighter (assuming they meet the requisite quality standards), although wooden tables are perfectly adequate (again, assuming they are of sufficient quality), for most situations and are generally more aesthetically pleasing than their aluminium counterparts.

Price

Last but definitely not least we come to the issue of price. Portable massage tables are now more affordable than ever and a decent quality table can be purchased for less than $200. Budget priced tables sell for as little as $60 while a top of the line model from a reputable manufacturer will set you back anywhere from $400 to $1000, or more.

It almost goes without saying that you should invest as much as you can reasonably afford in order to obtain the best quality table that is within your means to purchase. Of course, it’s always tempting to take the opposite route by spending as little money as possible but by doing so you run the risk of buying an inferior product. If you know other massage therapists, ask around for recommendations. This is often the best and surest way to identify which products are worthy of your consideration.

Conclusion

Portable massage tables are becoming increasingly popular among massage therapists because of their affordability and convenience. Moreover, being lightweight and portable makes them an excellent proposition for practitioners who operate a mobile business. Prospective buyers should, however, carefully consider their requirements and be aware that a stationary massage table might, in fact, be a better option.

There are several factors that should be taken into account when assessing the merits of each table and in making any comparison between them. The relative importance of each of these factors will, of course, depend on what exactly you are looking for in a table. Of particular note are such things as size and weight, stability and comfort. Other considerations include, price, the type of warranty offered, materials and features and accessories.

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