I can do massage the same way a male can. I can accomplish all the same outcomes but I have to do it different. This is a concern for me because especially in the continuining education world, many courses are taught by males to to females and body mechanics need to be altered based on research into gender differences
Most massage therapists are female. (AMTA report 2012 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet). Proper body mechanics are affected based on the differences between male and female bodies. Generally, females have more elastic tissues than males. Also, females tend to have a slightly broader range of joint movement. Regardless of gender though, it is necessary to perform massage with the best body mechanics possible
A female’s center of gravity is lower and further back than a male. Females also carry more weight below the waist, while males are broader in the chest and shoulders and carry their weight above the waist.
You can think of a man as a pear or eggplant standing on its head, and a woman as a pear or eggplant sitting on its bottom. When a man flexes forward the center of gravity is over his toes. When a woman flexes forward, her center of gravity is over her heels. New figure
PELVIS AND KNEE
The female pelvis is wider than the male pelvis, which means the woman’s femur bone approaches the knee at a wider angle called the "Q" Angle. A greater "Q" Angle can cause a knock-kneed stance which stresses the knee. The structural supports of the knee, the ligaments and tendons, are stretched on the insides and pinched on the outsides. The combination of wider hips and the resulting tendency to knock-knees coupled with a woman’s greater flexibility causes the knee to be more mobile.
Women do not bend at the ankles and knees as far forward as men. They also have less total ankle strength. Because there is not as much movement at the ankle, a female will need a taller massage table.
In women the spine as whole and individual vertebrae in certain regions of the normal spine are more backwardly inclined than in men. These spinal regions are subjected to different biomechanical loading conditions. There is less rotational stability in females than in males. Therefore, females must maintain alignment of the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle during massage to prevent torsion forces (twisting) on the spine while doing massage. (Janssen et al 2009)
Women are generally not as powerful as men. The average female, because of her smaller size, works at a higher proportion of her maximum strength than does the average male. Women only have 55-58 percent of the upper body strength of men, and on average are only 80 percent as strong as a man of identical weight. Women must leverage by leaning their body weight to apply pressure during massage application.
Male massage therapists may be able to use a shorter table without as much strain because when they lean forward, their center of gravity also moves forward and they have more upper body strength. However just because the typical male can “get away with it” does not mean they should do massage in any way that has the potential for harm.
So what does all this mean in relationship to how a female does massage and male does massage? Specifically, females should not attempt to do massage in the exact same way as males.
· Females generally need a higher massage table to compensate for the lower center of gravity as it shifts to the back when the torso is flexed forward.
· Females have more joint movement in general, but there is reduced movement at the ankles, again supporting the need for a higher massage table.
· Females need to reduce the tendency to flex the torso since this moves the center of gravity behind them requiring more muscle force to apply pressure.
· Females need to make sure that the pelvis does not tilt back during massage causing their bottom to stick out.
· Females have more difficulty with joint stability, so they need to maintain a tighter body position and not reach or overextend the body when doing massage.
· Females need to pay specific attention to core strength and stability to stabilize the spine as well as scapular stabilization
Janssen MM, Drevelle X, Humbert L, Skalli W, Castelein RM: Differences in male and female spino-pelvic alignment in asymptomatic young adults: a three-dimensional analysis using upright low-dose digital biplanar X-rays Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1;34(23):E826-32, Nov 2009.
Kubo K, Kanehisa H, Fukunaga T: Gender differences in the viscoelastic properties of tendon structures. Eur J Appl Physiol 88(6):520-6, Feb 2003.