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Massage Bolster Pillows

A full round massage bolster pillows aids in positioning and comfort.

A full round massage bolster pillows aids in positioning and comfort.

Massage bolsters have three purposes: comfort for the client, access for the therapist, and safety for clients with certain medical conditions. Bolster pillows can alleviate pressure, improve body alignment, and make it easier for the client to breathe, among other benefits.

Although bed pillows may work in a pinch, you will have greater versatility and support if you use bolster pillows. Massage bolsters are specifically designed for the needs of bodywork therapists. They are firmer than regular bed pillows or decorative bolsters. They take less time to “settle,” and they provide more support and resistance for bodywork. Just as the table foam needs to provide a certain amount of resistance for deep strokes and therapeutic work, bolsters also need to provide a certain amount of resistance.

A half round bolster pillow is short enough to comfortably support the neck.

A half round bolster pillow provides half the height.

Massage bolsters are protected by a vinyl covering that makes them easier to clean and prevents contamination from body fluids, lubricants, and oils from the client’s skin. Bolster covers offer further protection, in the same way that table linens protect your table. Some therapists prefer to slip the bolster underneath the bottom sheet on the table. This saves on laundry and linen costs; however, it takes some finesse in order to position the bolster without messing up the sheets.

It’s a good idea to have several bolsters with different sizes on hand. A full round bolster can provide more support in areas such as under the knees, while a half round bolster, which provides only about half as much height, can support smaller areas such as under the neck in a supine position. Since each client is different, take the time to assess each client’s individual needs for bolstering, comfort, and positioning.

Bolstering Massage Clients

Half Round Massage Bolsters

Half-round bolsters help support the neck.

There are many ways to bolster clients in a way that provides comfort, support, and better access to a certain area of the body. Ultimately, the most important thing to consider is the client’s individual needs and preferences.

Bolstering Basics
Most massage therapists use these basic bolstering techniques in the following positions:

  • Prone
    The most common bolstering method for the prone position is a full massage bolster under the ankles, one under the pelvis, and, for some clients, under the upper chest area at the sternal notch.
  • Supine
    The most common bolstering method for the supine position includes a thin neck bolster, a bolster under the knees, and sometimes a pillow under the entire lower leg from knee to foot. If your client has trouble breathing in the supine position, elevate the head and shoulders more to allow for easier breathing. Likewise, if your client is experiencing congestion, he or she may appreciate an extra boost in elevation.
  • Side
    Bolstering is especially important in the side-lying position to support the client’s head and neck and to cushion the top leg and top arm. Most clients are comfortable with the top leg resting on a bolster and the top arm supported by a soft pillow they can hug to their chest. A bolster along the back can also provide extra support in the side-lying position and can be removed as needed for better access to the client’s back.

Ask for Feedback
Before bolstering, ask the client if there’s any need for extra bolstering, such as for an injury, sore spot, or painful area that might be irritated or eased through bolstering. After bolstering according to the client’s requests or your normal method, ask if the client is comfortable and adjust the bolsters as needed.

Give Yourself Options
Keep a variety of bolsters (round and half round), pillows, and rolled towels at hand to cover any bolstering needs you may come across. Each client is different, and what works for one client may not work for another.

Guide To Essential Massage Equipment

After the hefty price tag of tuition and school loans, the cost of purchasing massage equipment may seem overwhelming, but if you start with the essentials and purchase optional equipment as your cash flow increases, the initial expense of starting out as a massage therapist will be easier to cover.

What equipment is considered essential for a massage therapist? Basically, there are four pieces of equipment needed to start out your career:

  1. Portable Massage Table
  2. Massage Oil
  3. Massage Linens
  4. Bolster Pillows
1. Portable Massage Table
Renew Portable Massage Table Package

Renew Portable Massage Table Package

A portable massage table is the biggest investment you will need to make as a new massage therapist. Even if you plan to work in a spa or office with massage tables already supplied, having your own massage table will give you the flexibility to practice on friends and family and to earn extra money on the side by offering on-site massage. For the best deal, look for a massage table package that includes a face cradle, arm rest, and massage table bag.

Most students start out with a massage table, then purchase a portable massage chair later on. If you’re strapped for money (along with the majority of recent massage graduates), you might want to follow suit. You can often find a cheap massage table (cheap in price, not in quality) that includes the same features and quality as the more expensive brands.

This still leaves you with the option to upgrade to a more expensive table later in your career, although you just might discover that the “cheap” massage table you purchased to start out your career is just as high quality as the more expensive massage tables on the market.

2. Massage Oil

If you’re starting up your own business, buy massage oil in bulk. If your employer provides massage oil, you can purchase it in smaller amounts to use on the side for word-of-mouth clients and friends and family.

3. Massage Linens
Massage Sheets and Face Cradle Covers (6-Piece Set)

Massage Sheets and Face Cradle Covers
(6-Piece Set)

As you have the money, invest in quality massage sheets. You’ll need enough sheet sets for two full days of massage. That way, even if you don’t get the laundry done every day, you’ll still have enough sheets to get by. Twin bed sheets work in a pinch or if you can’t afford to invest in massage sheets just yet.

If you plan on using the face cradle, remember to keep face cradle covers on hand. You can find reusable covers or disposable covers or, in a pinch, you can make your own headrest covers.

If the temperature in the room is on the cool side, you’ll also need a light blanket or two to keep the client warm.

4. Bolster Pillows

Massage bolsters are important for positioning and client comfort. If you need to pick and choose your essential equipment, use regular bed pillows until you can afford bolster pillows.

To save on laundry and the cost of bolster covers, use a pillowcase or slip the bolster underneath the bottom sheet. It takes a little fussing to arrange the sheet over the bolster, but this trick saves you money and laundry. You can also try arranging the bolsters underneath the sheet before the client gets on the table and then moving the bolsters slightly as needed after the client gets situated.

Final Thoughts

That’s about it for essential massage equipment! Depending on your needs, you might want to add a few more items to the list. Some therapists consider a massage stool to be an essential piece of equipment. If you don’t purchase a stool right away, put it at the top of your list of future massage purchases. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes after a full day of massages!

How to Use Bolster Pillows for Massage at Home

Learn how to bolster your partner for a relaxing massage at home.

Massage Bolster PillowsUsing bolsters for massage at home can enhance the effectiveness of massage. Bolster pillows not only provide extra comfort for the partner on the table, but they also position the body in a natural alignment, which allows the muscles to fully relax.

Since the body doesn’t naturally lie flat, a massage table alone doesn’t provide proper support. Bolster cushions support the natural curvature of the body and encourage deeper relaxation. The muscles can tighten up without proper support. Invite the muscles to “let go” by aligning and supporting the body in a neutral position. The more relaxed your partner is, the more beneficial the massage will be. Using bolster pillows gives the home therapist easier access to deeper, thicker muscle tissue.

Here are some tips for using bolster pillows in the face up (supine), face down (prone), and side-lying positions.

Face Up:
Place a full round massage bolster under the knees. Then slide a half round bolster underneath the curve of the neck when your partner is lying face up. Instead of a half bolster, you can also remove the Velcro face cradle pad to use as a neck bolster. Elevating the head and neck is helpful for clients with asthma, allergies, or congestion in the chest or sinuses. Use a thicker bolster to lift the head higher if needed. Ask your partner if he or she is more comfortable with the massage bolsters or without. Adjust the bolsters as needed.

Face Down:
In the prone (face down) position, slide a full bolster pillow under the ankles. You can also slide a bolster under the hips or just above the chest area with the arms resting on the forward arm shelf. Each person may differ slightly in how they like to be positioned. Find a position that works for both partners.

With your partner lying on one side, slightly bend the top leg at the knee and rest it on top of a full massage bolster. Keep the bottom leg fairly straight in a relaxed position and aligned with the rest of the body. Give your partner a pillow to hug for arm support, and slide a pillow or bolster under the neck.

How you use your massage bolster pillows ultimately depends on the comfort of the partner on the table. Ask for feedback when positioning your partner, and use your own judgment to maximize the comfort of the massage.

Bolster Pillows

Massage Bolster Pillow

Bolster pillows are more than just a decorative, cylindrical-shaped throw pillow. Using a bolster pillow during massage is an easy way to enhance your client’s experience. There are three purposes to the use of a bolster pillow: comfort, safety, and to aid in body positioning for increased accessibility by the massage therapist.

Bolster pillows can be used for comfort mainly by relieving pressure on one part of the body. For instance, when a client is in the supine position (lying on their back), placing a bolster under the knees will relieve pressure on the lower back. A bolster pillow can also be placed under the ankles to avoid cramps in the calves.

Safety comes into play when certain medical conditions are present. Two examples are pregnancy and asthma. When a pregnant woman is in the supine position, it is important to keep her in a semi-reclining position. This can be achieved by using bolster pillows to cushion her back. Some clients that are asthmatic cannot lie totally flat. Bolstering is one way of helping them find a comfortable position while they are being massaged.

There are some muscles that are hard to access without the use of a bolster pillow. The posterior deltoids are a very good example of this. If a bolster is placed under the upper arm when the client is in the prone position, this will relax those muscles. This will also help with compression techniques and will make it easier to lift the arm.

The only problem is that every client is not the same. This means that using a bolster for one person may not be right for another, or that a differently shaped bolster pillow would be more appropriate for one client than another. Each client must be individually evaluated first to determine what will be the most effective use of a bolster pillow, if any. For this reason it is a good idea to have several bolsters on hand to aid in any situation that may present itself to you.