Massage & Bodywork

January/February 2012

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TEN FOR TODAY Bolster Your Practice By Rebecca Jones The massage therapist was kind and thoughtful, and had done everything she could think of to make Tom Owens comfortable as he lay prone on her massage table. So when she asked if he was comfy, he did the polite thing—he lied. "I said I was fi ne," Owens says. "And all the while I was thinking, 'No, I'm not comfortable! I feel like I'm scrunched against a horizontal wall!'" Owens left the experience determined to fi nd a way to make massage tables more cushiony. In the process, he developed the bodyCushion, a support system now used by thousands of bodywork professionals to not only make clients more comfortable, but also help put them in more optimal positions for therapeutic massage. Cushions, bolsters, pillows, rolled-up towels, face and arm rests—all of these are ingredients in a massage therapist's positioning pantry. Here are some things to think about when deciding when and how to use these positioning tools to your best advantage, and which ones might be worthwhile investments for your practice. 1. ASK ABOUT SIZE AND PLACEMENT When clients are lying prone, consider placing a bolster or some other support under the ankles, pelvis, and sternum. When on their backs, support under the knees and neck usually feels good. You'll want different sizes for different positions and for different clients. The best way to fi nd out what size and placement to use is simply to ask. "Don't forget to check in with your clients for feedback," says Kelly Metz-Matthews, spokeswoman for EarthLite Massage Tables, which offers a full range of positioning accessories. 2. EXPERIMENT WITH POSITIONING Don't be afraid to experiment with positioning. "A common mistake is believing there is only one right way to use a bolster," Metz-Matthews says. "Every client is unique and their experience with a bolster will be unique as well." 3. GIVE SPECIAL SUPPORT TO SIDE-LYING CLIENTS Side lying is the preferred and safest method for bodywork for pregnant clients, but it's also helpful for clients with back or breathing problems. Remember that when clients are lying on their side, they'll need support for their torso, neck, and head, as well as hip and legs. "Side-lying positioning is more effective in some ways because it allows you more freedom of motion for the extremities," says Jeffrey Riach, founder and president of Oakworks, a company that makes a whole line of massage tables and accessories, including its Side Lying Positioning System. "The core issue is, you need to create a stable and comfortable position that relieves the pressure off the lower shoulder and allows the hip to relax." 4. GET A COMFY FACE REST Paying attention to the padding in the face rest will result in substantially greater comfort for most clients—especially if your client has sinus problems or will be lying prone for an extended time. Experts advise getting the comfi est face rest you can fi nd. Riach promotes the Boiance Face Cradle pillow as a good alternative to memory foam or polyurethane face pads. The pillow is stuffed with water spheres that remove virtually all pressure from the face. 22 massage & bodywork january/february 2012 Images courtesy of Massage Warehouse.

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