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How to Choose a Massage Table

On this page you will learn everything you could possibly want to know about choosing the right massage table for you and your practice.

Beyond the therapy skills you’ve honed over time, your massage table is the most important tool in your practice. Without it you can’t deliver effective treatments, so it’s vital that you pick the right one.

There are several things to consider when choosing a massage table, so let’s dive right in.

Picking The Right Width:

In your practice you will come across a wide range of body types. Some will be tall and others short, some wide and others narrow. Your massage table needs to be wide enough that all kinds of customers will be comfortable, while allowing you to deliver an effective treatment without putting strain on your own body.

The best table width for you will really depend on your training and ability. Each therapist is different, and wants different things from their table. We often speak with smaller therapists who opt for a 30-32” table, and very tall therapists who decide that the narrower 28” table is a better fit. It really depends on you.

A good rule of thumb, though, is that if you are a smaller person, you might be better off with a narrower table of 28”. If you’re taller, or it’s very important that your clients have lots of room, a table in the 30-32” range is better.

If you’re unsure about the right fit for you, head down to your local training college or therapy room. Ask to see the tables they use, and find out how wide those tables are. You can then work out whether you need something of a similar size, or need something wider or narrower.

If that’s not possible, however, there is a work-around you can use to figure out what width to choose:

Cut out a few pieces of cardboard in the widths you are trying to choose between. Lay each piece over the kitchen table and lean over it. Imagine having a client on that cut-out in order to see if they will have enough space and if you will be comfortable working over it.


You want to be sure you can get close enough to the table that you can comfortably square your shoulders to the clients’ hips, having pivoted at the waist to have your hands parallel to their spine. This position will protect you from developing an injury, so it’s vital to factor this into your choice.

The industry standard width is 30”, as this suits most clients very well. While we do offer 28” tables, they are best suited to therapists who are shorter in height and are at risk of back strain with a normal table.

The other reason to choose a 28” table would be if you need an extremely light table. By making the table a little narrower, we can reduce the overall weight of the table too. If you are a mobile therapist, having a very light table is worthwhile - even if it means a little less client comfort - as you will be carrying the table frequently and need to avoid injury.

In recent years, massage table design has had some very innovative developments. One of these is the introduction of hourglass-shaped massage tables, which solves many of the problems therapists commonly experience with their tables.

Hourglass massage tables have a tapered shape, being wider at the ends and narrower in the middle. This makes the table very comfortable for the client, while caring for your posture and health, as the client has 30-32” in the shoulder and leg areas, while you get much greater access over the 26-28” center zone.

Height of the Table

While width is a key factor, it’s also very important to think of the length of your massage table. Having enough length can significantly increase the comfort your clients experience. These days, most tables come with removable face cradles, which can add plenty of extra length for even very tall clients.

The standard length for most tables is 73”. You can, however, get shorter models if you particularly want one.

Adding an adjustable face cradle to the end of the table will usually add 7.5” to 9” to the total length. For a regular length table, that will bring the total up to around 80” or 82”. As the face cradles are removable, they lend a lot of flexibility to your treatment options.

When you’re trying to settle on the best length, there are really only two things you need to consider:

If you are a mobile therapist, a shorter table can mean less weight to be carrying around every day. However, it also means that tall clients may experience a little ‘overhang’ at the end of the table.

As long as the table you choose has a breath hole and removable face cradle, you will have all the flexibility you need across treatments.

Choosing A Table With Adjustable Height

Just about all the massage tables on today’s market have adjustable height settings. Regardless of which table you choose, it should come with a range of height options so that you can adjust it to suit all the therapies you want to practice.

The common height range of modern massage tables is 23” to 33”, which will suit just about any therapist. To work out the ideal height for you to work with, go through the following steps:

Stand up straight, keeping your arms by your side and closing your fists.
Have somebody measure the distance between your knuckles and the floor
Set your massage table to that distance, allowing a couple of inches leeway to account for the depth of a body on the bed.

Generally speaking, you would only adjust the height of your massage table if more than one therapist is working on it and there is significant height variation. However, you might also adjust it if you are working with a client who has a significantly different body depth to your usual clients.

Adjusting the height of your massage table should only ever take 2 or 3 minutes, and with the following options, it should also be totally easy.

Wooden Tables: Twisting Adjustment Knobs
Wooden massage tables will generally have one or two height adjustment knobs on each leg. 

Aluminum Tables: Periscopic Push Buttons
Similar to the push-button mechanism found on crutches, the push-button height adjustment on aluminum massage tables is very easy to use. It only takes a couple of seconds per leg, and is a very strong, reliable mechanism. 

Getting The Right Weight

When you’re choosing a massage table, there are two weight considerations to factor in: the carrying weight, and the working weight.

The carrying weight is the weight of the table itself when it’s all folded up and ready to be transported. This is very important if you do a lot of mobile treatments and will be carrying the table frequently.

The working weight is the amount of weight you can put on the table during regular treatments, factoring the weight of your client and any bolsters or accessories you might be using.

The carrying weight of massage tables usually varies between 22lb and 46lb. The weight is largely dictated by the table’s design and dimensions, as well as whether its frame is wood or aluminum.

If your practice is primarily mobile, aim to choose a table that weighs in under 30lb. In fact, aim to go as light as you can without sacrificing any of your other ‘must-haves’.

There are three ways to reduce the weight of a massage table:

  1. Choose an aluminum frame instead of wood
  2. Choose a table without a lifting backrest, as the lifting mechanism adds 4 to 6 pounds.
  3. Choose a table with smaller dimensions (such as reduced length and width). Just remember that this may make it impractical for some larger clients.

Most therapists find that the most practical of these options is to opt for an aluminum table. If you need it to be even lighter, then you can opt to remove the lifting back rest or to downsize.

Occasionally a therapist will complain to us that the aluminum tables are more expensive than their wooden counterparts, but we always explain that this difference allows a significant increase in the lifetime value and performance of the table, and will usually be made up for within two or three treatments.

So while the extra $100 or so might sting a little now, over the course of your career, it’s a drop in the ocean. You can also think of it as insurance for yourself - choosing a cheaper table that’s also heavier can do you serious injury. Choosing the lighter table protects your health, and therefore your income, over the long run. Plus the aluminum tables are the most sturdy and comfortable on the market, guaranteeing that your clients will always have a good experience and will be more likely to come back, as well as referring you on to friends.

“But I need a lifting backrest, even though I’m a mobile therapist!”

We’ve discussed choosing a light table, but for some therapists, a heavier table with a backrest will meet their needs more effectively. If this is the case for you, you can overcome the difference in weight by purchasing a massage table trolley cart to transport your table around easily on wheels.

Alternately, you can purchase an ultra light-weight table, and then pick up a wedge bolster to use as a portable backrest and take with you to the treatments where you will need the client to be seated upright.

Many therapists will have a handful of clients each month that need to be upright during treatment - maybe 3 in 20. Purchasing a heavier table means you have to transport it to all 20 treatments, whereas choosing a lighter table and the wedge bolster mean that for 17 of the treatments, you only have to carry a very light table, and for the 3, you take the bolster as well - which is still lighter than a table with an inbuilt backrest.

Should You Opt For Wood Or Aluminum?

Some therapists find that the choice between a wood or aluminum frame is an easy one, just depending on their aesthetic preferences. Over the last 14 years, we’ve seen that there is often a preference for the look of wood, but as the design of aluminum tables has modernised, the sleek and stylish look has made them a more appealing choice.

In many therapy schools, the teachers are no longer active in their own practices, and remember back to many years ago when metal tables were common. These old models would rust and squeak, and were very heavy.

For this reason, many tutors would still recommend against aluminum tables, not realising how much the industry has modernized and confusing the aluminum tables with metal. While metal tables are now quite uncommon, there are still a few options floating around that are very cheap - generally under $120, but such low quality that you would have to buy a new table again very soon after purchasing.

While aluminum tables are a recent addition to the market, many therapists are now choosing the aluminum option for the increased strength and reduced weight.

In the professional price range, there is no difference in quality between the aluminum tables and the wooden tables. Both will have been made with very high quality materials, and both will have been constructed with the same stringent building standards.

In this instance, it’s best to choose the table best suited to your practice and your preferences. In the professional range it’s not really important whether you opt for wood or aluminum. While an aluminum frame will be stronger than wood, you’ll never get to the upper limit of the working weight of a wooden table, so you have no risk of damaging the frame regardless.

One Caveat:

While the quality of the professional level tables (over $300) is consistent between aluminum and wood, in the entry level price range (up to $250) there will be a difference.

Professional level aluminum tables are built with aircraft-grade aluminum, while the entry level tables are built with an aluminum composite and don’t have as high a build quality. While they are still strong and sturdy, entry level aluminum tables are not as strong as wooden entry level tables.

A Table’s Working Weight:

A massage table’s working is the total amount of weight that can be safely applied to the table. This includes the weight of the client, as well as the amount of downward pressure you apply during treatment.

For most massage tables, the standard working weight is between 500 and 600 pounds. Considering that most people would weigh between 120 and 200 pounds, it is highly unlikely that you would ever test the upper limits of the table’s capacity.

A Table’s Static Weight:

Each table is put through rigorous testing in the development stage to ensure that they are of sufficient strength.

2000 pounds is dropped on each table from above to test that it is capable of taking that kind of pressure. To watch this in person is similar to seeing the crash tests done on vehicles to ensure safety standards. While it’s reassuring to know the static weight of each massage table - and all of ours can take up to 2000 pounds - it’s more important to think of the working weight when making your choice.

Choosing The Right Foam Thickness:

Getting the right density of foam is one of the most vital choices regarding your massage table.

Naturally, it’s key that your clients experience a high level of comfort when lying on the table. A thick, high quality foam will ensure that their whole body is supported and comfortable throughout every treatment.

It’s also important that the foam is durable enough to last the lifetime of the table. Higher density foam won’t sag or develop air pockets over time as thinner foam can do. This ensures that the table looks and performs to the highest standard for years of quality use.

Cheap massage tables, as you might find on eBay and amazon, often feature very thin foam under the upholstery - even when they claim to use high density foam. This sacrifices a lot of client comfort, and means that the table will look worn out much faster than it should. You simply can’t produce a high quality table for such a low price as they are advertising.

The industry standard foam thickness is 2 inches. Knowing how important comfort and appearances are, the massage tables we carry normally use 2.5-3 inches. This 3 inch foam is what’s called semi-firm foam, and it guarantees a higher standard of comfort and support than any other option.

Choosing The Right Upholstery:

Many entry level or cheap tables will use PVC vinyl leather upholstery to cover the table. While PU leather is a much better option, manufacturers of cheaper tables always keep an eye on keeping their costs down, which is why PVC is so common.

PVC leather is a synthetic material - you’ve probably seen it on cheap imitation leather sofas. It’s easy to clean and is very durable, though it’s not the most pleasant against the skin.

PU is also a synthetic leather, but is much closer to real leather in its look and feel. It’s very soft, and is very luxurious to lie on. It’s a very strong material, and like PVC is easy to clean, but is much more durable.

The Cable System:

Our massage tables use a cable system known as the tensor cable support system. This provides portable massage tables with much more stability and strength, and prevents the table from collapsing.

During treatment it will also prevent the table from rocking or moving around, making for a much calmer and more peaceful experience for your clients. Since stability is so important during treatments, all of our tables come equipped with this feature.

The Ratio of Quality to Price:

As you’ve no doubt found with many things, paying a little extra for something can mean a big increase in the quality you get. Currently, there are three types of massage tables available on the market, and they can be separated by price range:

Budget massage tables, which are generally priced below $120.

Entry level massage tables, which are usually between $150 and $250.

Professional level massage tables, which usually start around $300+.

After all the import taxes and sales levies that are paid on massage tables in the US, other things that factor into the price of each table include the materials to build the table, the labor, shipping by sea, warehousing costs, and national shipping.

Once you strip out all those costs, at the lower end of the market you are left with tables that have been built for $50 or $60… and what you have to ask yourself is whether you feel comfortable inviting clients to lie on such a cheap piece of equipment.

Here at Massage World we are all therapists or have been in the past. We all have high expectations when it comes to what we would accept in our own practices, and so we’ll never let a table out the door that doesn’t meet our standards. If it’s shaky, creaky or rocks during treatment, it will never see the sales floor. For this reason, we’ve become the trusted source for quality massage tables, and will only stock the best options.

What’s The Real Difference Between Entry Level and Professional?

The entry level tables offer great value for money. They are affordable tables that are also sturdy and reliable. The major difference is simply that each of the materials used for the professional tables are of an even higher quality, and are therefore stronger and more durable.

A Break down of Professional Massage Tables:

Wooden Tables:
Our wooden tables are constructed with only the highest quality wood. It is inspected prior to construction for knots, cracks and flaws, so that only the smoothest, strongest pieces are used.

Aluminum Tables:
Our aluminum tables are built with aircraft-grade aluminum, which is the strongest material available for frames on today’s market.

On the Internet you will often see massage tables being advertised as having ‘high density’ foam. However, there is no industry standard enforced when it comes to building massage tables, so you’ll often end up with a subpar foam being used on cheap tables and then have no recourse against the retailer.

High quality foam is more expensive than the thinner options, so it does increase the production price of each table. The less dense options have more air in the foam, which means that it will depress and imprint more easily.

If you’ve ever had a massage on a cheap massage table, you may have started to feel the wood beneath the padding at some stage during the treatment. This happens when all the air is compressed out of the foam, which happens quickly on tables that have foam of less than 2 inches.

When it comes to choosing what kind of foam to go with, it’s best to let pricing be your guide. Suppliers who respect their customers and make a priority of delivering a good product will always opt to use high quality, high density foam on their tables.

In the professional range, you’ll generally see massage tables with foam of 3 inches, which increases client comfort, improves durability and will increase the lifespan of your table.

There are generally only two types of upholstery used on massage tables - PVC leather and PU leather. PVC tends to feel a little like plastic, while PU tends to have a more similar feel to actual leather.

Of course, there is also quality variation between these two types. Very cheap PVC will feel like lying on plastic sheets, while the higher quality will be softer and much more pleasant.

As with the foam, there is no set international standard when it comes to advertising the quality of your upholstery, so again it’s best to determine by the price, as well as the reputation and guidance of the retailer you decide to purchase with.

At Massage World, the professional massage tables we sell are upholstered with luxurious PU leather. The quality of the PU is so high that to the touch there is little distinction between it and real leather, and it’s very hard-wearing and durable.

Which Quality Level Should You Choose?

For many therapists, choosing an entry level table for their practice will suit them just fine. Some people will choose an entry level table when they first start out on their career, and then upgrade down the track, in order to increase their client comfort and professionalism.

It’s a comparable purchase to buying a sofa for your home. You can go with a cheap and cheerful one that will last a few years and then go out and buy a professional model later on, or you can invest in something really top-notch first day and use it for the rest of your life. Both will do the job; it’s simply up to you in terms of what you want for luxury and service.

When you purchase a professional table, it should last the length of your whole career. You would really only need to purchase a table if you wanted a back-up or something to take to mobile treatments if you had originally opted for a heavier table.

From the perspective of your clients, you can think of it as you would a car service. You can either hail a taxi off the side of the street, and get to where you’re going with no frills or added luxury, or you can arrange a private car that will deliver you to the doorstep refreshed and relaxed. It’s the same with massage tables - both option will do the job, it’s just that the experience will vary.

Common Mistakes When Buying A Massage Table:

  1. Deciding on a table that includes a lifting backrest, when the bulk of your treatments don’t require one. Generally speaking, this only applies to mobile therapists.
  2. Ignoring the dimensions of the table. Make sure the table you choose hasn’t had width or length sacrificed beyond what you want in order to reduce the weight.
  3. Skimping and choosing a cheap massage table that either provides a shoddy experience to your clients and harms your business in the long run, or that ceases to be sufficient and needs replacing, costing you more than if you had just bought a professional table at the start.


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