Whether you’re an energetic physiotherapist visiting patients around town, a passionate health and beauty specialist running your own salon, or a massage therapist working from home, your massage table is your most important piece of equipment. It’s also likely the biggest investment you’ll end up making, aside from your studies (and of course, your tireless energy!).
That’s why choosing the right massage table for both your and your client’s needs is a decision you’ll need to weigh up carefully. While there are obvious questions to answer—like whether to buy a portable or stationary table—there are also some less obvious factors to think about, especially if this is only your first or second time buying a massage bed.
While shopping online is the most convenient option and gives you more options to choose from, it also means you’ll want to have a really clear idea of what to look for, since you won’t be able to try the table out in person.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to find the answers and the questions you need to be asking so you can shop with peace of mind, and walk away with the best option that’s going to keep you and your clients smiling for years to come.
How Do I Choose a Massage Table?
A myriad of factors will eventually play into your decision of which massage bed to buy. But before you start getting lost in the nitty gritty of various features, dimensions, and prices, start with your big-picture needs and priorities.
The following three factors will naturally inform your unique needs and help you determine what you should be looking for in a massage table:
- Consider your working comfort & wellbeing
You won’t be able to serve your clients well or grow your business if you aren’t able to work comfortably and efficiently. Before you consider buying a table, the first question you should ask is, will this table be comfortable, convenient, and easy to work with on a daily basis? Factors like size, easy adjustability, convenient storage, and transport may all be important considerations.
- Consider your clients
Think about the kinds of clients you usually work with or intend to work with, and the treatments they’ll require. This will obviously be a strong indication of the size, functionality, and comfort requirements you’d be looking for in a table, as well as any accessories that might be needed.
- Consider your working environment
Is your massage table going to be set up in your own home, at a small practice, or a busy clinic or beauty salon? Are clients coming to you, or will you be traveling to them? Your general work modalities will obviously have a big say in what table will best cater to those needs and help you create the environment, atmosphere, and reputation you’re aiming for with your clients.
Portable vs. Fixed Massage Tables: Which Makes Sense for You?
As you start thinking about what kind of massage table is going to best serve your needs and priorities, the first question you’ll need to answer is whether you want to invest in a fixed or portable table. Each type obviously has its own advantages, and your choice will mainly depend on the kind of business you’re running or hoping to set up.
Portable Massage Tables
For many massage therapists, physiotherapists, nurses, and other medical practitioners working in South Africa today, travel is the norm. Some therapists simply prefer to visit their clients in the comfort of their home, while others may split their work between private visits and part-time work at salons, clinics, or chiropractors’ offices.
Even if you operate your own practice, you may still want a backup portable table to have the freedom to do the occasional on-site visit or promote your services at a local shopping centre or trade fair.
The great thing about a quality portable massage bed is its versatility and convenience. While it provides the levels of comfort found in a stationery table, with similar functionality and adjustable features, you can pack it up at a moment’s notice and take it anywhere, enabling you to provide professional service to your clients, wherever they are.
Since it needs to be transported, packed in and out of vehicles, carried across parking lots and up and down stairs, the table should not weigh more than 10-25kg. You’ll obviously want to make sure it’s compact enough to fit into your vehicle, and that it’s easy for you to set up and fold away on your own. It should also come with a good quality carry case.
Fixed (Stationary) Massage Tables
Fixed or stationary massage beds are an obvious choice for salons, spas, and other static working locations where your clients always come to you. Stationary beds offer sturdy construction and often have built-in storage cabinets so everything needed during treatments is easily on hand. They can accommodate thicker cushioning and more deluxe face cradles since weight and portability are not a concern.
Fixed tables can come with a tilting backrest and either electric or hydraulic height adjustment. Since hydraulic adjustment requires pumping action by the therapist, electric versions are often the preferred choice for ease of use and better ergonomics for therapists.
With their added features and cost of installation, fixed tables generally come at a higher price point than portable tables.
Perhaps your clients mainly come to you and you prefer the features of a stationery table, but still want to be able to do the occasional off-site visit. In this case, instead of a second portable table, you could consider purchasing a massage table cart. This allows you to transport your heavier table once in a while (as long as it’s compactible and will fit into your vehicle). Be sure to look for a cart that’s sturdy and well-constructed so you don’t end up damaging your table or straining your back. (You may still need someone to help you load the table on and off the cart).
2-Section vs. 3-Section Massage Tables
Massage beds generally come in 2-section and 3-section designs, with 2-section tables being the most common. While 2-section tables allow you to only adjust the backrest portion, 3-section designs give you the added option of raising and lowering the leg-rest section, allowing you to further enhance your patients’ comfort and offer them more individualised support. If you have the option, a 3-section table is generally the best choice for massage purposes.
Size Up Your Needs: Massage Table Dimensions
Once you’ve decided on your preferred style of table, you’ll need to start thinking about your ideal table dimensions. Choosing the correct table size will be key to your own working ease and comfort, along with that of your clients.
While the size of your working space may also be a concern if it’s on the small side, it’s best to prioritise having an adequately sized table, and try to arrange the rest of your workspace to accommodate this as far as possible.
What is a good width for a massage tables?
The industry standard width for massage beds ranges from around 68cm to 75cm. The ideal width for your table will depend on the type of treatments you offer, the kind of clients you tend to treat, and your personal size.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- As a rule of thumb, your table needs to be wide enough to cater to the majority of your clients, fully supporting their entire body.
- You will also need to take your own height into account to ensure the table is not too wide for you to comfortably work at the centreline of a client’s body.
- If your treatments often require active participation between therapist and client, you may need a narrower table to allow for easier interaction.
- If you want to be able to cater to body types that are larger than average, you may want to purchase a table with side extensions or arm extensions, rather than a wider table.
What is the best length for a massage tables?
Most massage beds range from around 182cm to 192cm, catering to most of the normal population who tend to fall under 192cm. Adding an adjustable face cradle can add an extra 20cm or so to your table length – and the extra length may certainly be important if you’re going to be treating a team of rugby players!
What height should a massage table be?
Ensuring your table is the right height for you to work at is going to be crucial for good work ergonomics and avoiding ending up on the massage table yourself.
Height adjustment is a standard feature on modern massage tables. The common height range is 58-85cm, which generally accommodates the majority of therapists and therapy types. However, you’ll still want to make sure the height range of the massage table you purchase is going to suit your particular needs.
To calculate your ideal massage table height for a normal standing massage treatment, stand up straight with your arms at your side, fists closed, and have someone measure the distance from your knuckles to the floor. From this measurement, subtract 20-30cm to account for the depth of the client’s body on the table. This will give you a good indication of the table height you’d want to be working at.
What is the recommended weight capacity for a massage table?
When shopping for a massage table, there are two weight measurements you need to pay attention to: the working weight, and the actual weight (carrying weight).
1. Working weight capacity
A quality massage table should offer a working weight capacity of at least 180kg to 270kg.
The working weight is the maximum total weight capacity that the massage table can support. This includes the weight of the person on the table, plus the pressure you’ll be applying during a treatment. The working weight capacity you need for your table will depend on the kind of clients you treat and the style of treatments you provide.
2. Actual weight or carrying weight
The actual static weight or carrying weight of the table itself is a key consideration, particularly for mobile therapists. You don’t want a table that’s heavy to lug around. Most portable tables range from 10 and 21kg, depending on the design, dimensions and frame material.
If you travel around a lot with your table, go for the lightest table that meets your other requirements—you’d probably want to opt for an aluminium frame, which is both sturdy and lightweight. For home and clinic-based therapists, a slightly heavier table is usually fine, as long as you find it easy enough to pack up and move around as necessary.
Which Frame Material is Best?
Back in the day, many massage beds were constructed with steel frames, but these days the most common options are wood and aluminium. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of both of these popular frame materials to help you make your choice.
Wooden massage tables
Advantages: Aesthetically warm & appealing, durable, sturdy
Wood is a very popular choice for massage tables due to its natural durability and aesthetic appeal, which can help to create a relaxing and soothing environment for massage clients. While wood is generally a little heavier than aluminium, it’s still light enough to work well for portable tables. One drawback to wood is that it’s not always moisture-resistant, so should be stored and cleaned with extra care.
Advantages: Extra lightweight, durable, low-maintenance
High-quality aluminium massage tables are still fairly new on the market but have quickly gained popularity thanks to their being very strong and lightweight, while also very easy to clean and maintain.
On average, aluminium tables are at least 10% lighter than wooden models, which can make a big difference if you’re carrying your table around every day and frequently climbing stairs. Aluminium is also moisture-resistant and rustproof, so you won’t have to worry about it getting stained or losing its integrity over time.
Aluminium tables can vary considerably in the grade of the aluminium and the frame construction, which will show in the price difference between entry-level and professional quality tables—so be sure you know what you’re buying.
10 Important Features to look for in a High-Quality Massage Table
By now you’ll likely have a clearer idea of the type of massage bed, the table dimensions, and the frame material that sounds best for you. But what other specifics should you be on the lookout for?
Here are 10 key features that massage practitioners recommend looking for when shopping for a good quality massage table.
- Ergonomic design – a quality massage bed doesn’t just need to ensure comfort, but good ergonomics, meaning it conforms well to the human body, and to your working needs as a therapist. The build, dimensions, and adjustability of your table will all play a role in ensuring your clients are well-supported, and that you can work comfortably with your clients and with the table itself.
- Sturdy construction – a massage table bed wobbles when someone gets onto it and will immediately create a poor impression. With portable tables, in particular, being lightweight should not mean compromising on sturdy construction. Specifically, you’ll want to check for good quality hinges and non-slip feet.
- High-quality materials – the materials used in the table construction not only affect price and aesthetics, but play a big role in ease of use, longevity, and your client’s comfort. Before making this important investment, be sure you’re happy with the quality of all the table’s components—not just the frame and the upholstery, but also all hinges, cables, moving parts, and any electrical components.
- Ease of use – if your table is not convenient and easy to use, you’re sure to soon find yourself shopping for another one. Ensure the table is lightweight and easy enough to set up, adjust, pack down and carry around on your own if you’re going to be mobile. You’ll also want to ensure it comes with a carry case, or buy one separately if necessary.
- Adjustability – a good table should offer an adequate range of adjustability to ensure versatility, so you can use it for a variety of clients and treatments. Make sure it’s easy enough to make any adjustments on your own, and that this won’t interfere with your working rhythm.
- High density foam padding – the quality of the foam padding is crucial to client comfort as well as the longevity of your table. High density foam is the preferred choice for massage beds as it provides superior support and durability, while still offering a sufficiently soft and comforting surface. Look for padding that is at least 5cm thick, and keep in mind that the thicker the padding, the more it will add to the weight of the table.
- Easy cleaning upholstery – the upholstery material on your massage table needs to stand up to plenty of wear and tear, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting. High-quality PU leather, PVC, and vinyl are all good options that are durable and easy to clean between sessions. Check whether the upholstery is included in the manufacturer’s warranty, so you’ll have an idea of the expected lifespan.
- Padded face cradle – a face hole or face cradle is essential when doing spinal massages to allow clients to lie in a natural position where they can breathe easily, while avoiding discomfort and potential injury.
- Comfortable headrest – all good quality massage beds should come with a comfortable, padded headrest, ensuring the client can lie at ease on their back with proper neck support.
- After-sales service – even the best quality massage tables are not immune to damage, whether it be from an accident, or normal wear and tear. When shopping for a massage table and comparing brands, look for dealers with a reputable track record, check their warranties, return & repair policies, and try to find out if parts are readily available.
Extra features and add-ons to consider:
- Built-in heating – some electric massage tables also come with heating, which is a really nice bonus to enhance your clients’ comfort (and is sure to impress!).
- Adjustable face cradle – while standard face cradles cater to the majority of the population, having an adjustable face cradle can make a big difference in comfort for many of your clients.
- Side extensions or arm extensions – it’s always handy to have the option to extend your table width to cater to larger, extra-muscular or overweight clients and ensure they’re comfortable.
- Bolsters – bolsters are a simple way to improve your clients’ comfort and even upgrade the functionality of your massage table without investing in a larger, heavier or more expensive model. They’re also affordable, lightweight, and easy to transport.
How much do massage tables cost?
Massage bed prices in South Africa can range anywhere from around R2000 to tens of thousands for fully electric models and special imports.
While you will likely be constrained by budget, don’t let this be your first determining factor. If you sacrifice quality or functionality to save money, you’ll probably find yourself having to buy a better table before very long. Save yourself the wasted time and money, and buy a good quality table from a reputable dealer the first time round.
Beware of buying second-hand massage tables. While it may seem like a bargain, you can never be quite sure how the table was cared for and whether some of the parts have been weakened or damaged over time. You also won’t have the benefit of a warranty if you have any problems with the table.
Where to Buy Affordable Massage Tables in South Africa
Massage Warehouse specialises in high-quality portable massage beds for budget-conscious massage therapists on the go. Our wooden and aluminium deluxe massage tables are solidly constructed with top-quality materials imported from Germany, featuring high-grade aluminium alloy legs and high-strength steel wire ropes. Our tables are padded with soft high-density foam, and covered in super-durable PVC leather for a luxury feel that’s easy to clean and maintain.
All of our massage beds are lightweight, and support a working weight of up to 270kg, allowing you to travel and work with all varieties of clients with complete ease and peace of mind.
Order online for nationwide delivery and get a free carry bag worth R299 when you buy one of our affordable, high-quality massage beds for your home, spa, or business.