Expert Advice: How high should your couch be?
Therapy furniture expert Maxine Bridges advises how to choose a couch that is fit for purpose and supports ergonomic working.
Day in, day out, the therapist community is working incredibly hard helping others to feel/perform better and, in the process, often neglecting their own needs. Turning the therapist into the patient is not a good outcome and needs to be avoided!
Couch height, whether from working for long periods at the wrong height or from prolonged bending down to adjust the height, can result in back problems for a therapist.
In an ideal world, it is best to have either an electric or hydraulic couch as they offer incredibly flexible height adjustment, through a greater range, at the press of a button or pedal. As an example, the Affinity Diva Prima all electric couch moves through an impressive range from 17.5” to 37.5” (44.5-95cm).
However, we do appreciate that having the luxury of an electric or hydraulic couch isn't always an option whether it be due to budget, space/location or modality (i.e. mobile working).
Looking at portable massage couches, typically they will usually offer a height range between 24” (61cm) to 33” (84cm). Although there will always be exceptions to a rule, this range should provide practical working solutions for a number of different therapists carrying out different treatments.
Adjusting your couch to its optimum height
Although this won't apply to everyone using a massage couch, the general guide to finding optimum working height is to stand straight with your arm down by your side and to have the couch height set at the level of your clenched fist.
However, the size of the client and the treatment you are carrying out will of course play an important part in determining this as some treatments are carried out with the therapist seated and others involve the therapist on the couch with the client.
Another consideration related to height adjustment is the way in which the height is adjusted. If the push button/pedal of an electric/hydraulic couch is not an option, then, in another attempt to prevent the therapist from hurting their back and becoming the client, look for the easiest/quickest adjustment.
Historically wooden couches will feature a leg extender/thumb screw system. Although they might all look similar, there are a number of different types depending on how much you are willing to spend. As you would expect, the more expensive couches will offer a far quicker/more user friendly system with features such as one thumbscrew rather than two, and the screws will be rubberised rather than shiny plastic, as rubber won't slip between the fingers and double the adjusting time. It is a misconception that two adjusters are required on each portable couch leg to offer better stability. A well-constructed, quality couch can offer maximum stability with only one adjuster per leg.
On an aluminium couch the preference is for telescopic legs with a push button system. Again, the more expensive couches will tend to be easier/quicker to adjust. They have additional, well thought out features such as shaped legs to stop the lower leg extender from rotating through 360° which can result in the button getting lost, and a clever spring mechanism inside the leg to push the button back out (some can get stuck in).
Should you have any questions relating to couch height, you should always contact your couch supplier to ensure you're looking after your own back health and you're working with the right couch for your needs.
Maxine Bridges has 22 years' experience in the massage and beauty therapy sector, and is Sales Manager for Affinity who supply a comprehensive range of therapy couches.