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Woman lying on bolster for back stretching

Selecting: Bolsters and Wedges for your Massage Table

Massage Table Bolsters and Wedges

The flat surface of a treatment table is like a blank canvas for the massage therapist. The client can lie flat on the padded surface and relax as the treatment unfolds. This flat plane is often sufficient, but to treat certain conditions of the arms, legs, and back, extra support to elevate parts of the body can be very beneficial. Massage table bolsters and other forms of support can be used to ease tension, especially when dealing with clients with injuries or specific pain complaints.

The term “bolster” goes back to Old English, meaning “to stuff something until it swells up.” It was also used to describe any kind of long pillow — used, presumably, for the same purpose that an RMT might use one today.

Bolster Styles

Typical bolsters are quite firm cushions with a cylindrical shape, available in various lengths and diameters. Three-quarter round, half moon, or “half round” bolsters are also available, with one flat side so they will not roll about on the table. Either kind can be used to raise the ankles when the patient is facing down, or under the knees when the patient is facing up. They provide gentle support to the major joints of the body and relax the spine. They can be useful under the neck, or used along the ribs to support an arm.

Typical bolsters have a core of high-density foam, wrapped in a layer of soft, fleece-like material, before being enclosed inside a durable vinyl cover. The fleece layer adds extra softness and “give” to the bolster. So-called “fluffy bolsters” forego the high-density foam core, so they are even softer, although they remain plump. These also have durable vinyl covers. Air bolsters provide the same support with the added benefit of being compact and portable.

Body Wedges

Body wedges follow the same principle as bolsters, but they are usually triangular in cross section. They can be used to support clients with large frames, or to elevate the pelvis to provide spinal decompression. This is an excellent use for patients with lumbar stenosis, as it can provide relief to a very specific area of the lower spine.

People’s bodies rarely lie flat.

Used in combination, bolsters and wedges can be used to create a comfortable position for almost any body shape, be they prone, supine, or recumbent. Few people have bodies that are 100% even or symmetrical, so these minor adjustments on the treatment table can bring genuine relief to the patient. Even expecting mothers can be accommodated by special maternity and prenatal massage supports.

Oft Forgotten Shoulder Support

Both men and women benefit from additional shoulder support when prone on a massage table. These supports are available in various thicknesses and are often purchased in pairs, and gently placed under the table sheets to lift and level the client's shoulders to take some of the weight off the chest.

Vinyl Covers

To keep these essential pieces of treatment equipment clean and sanitary for the next patient, they feature durable vinyl covers. These are usually removable by means of a zipper or snap, and they are both stain-resistant and waterproof. This makes their surface easy to clean and naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. That said, vinyl requires care for a long life.

Learn more about how to disinfect and care for vinyl-covered treatment room equipment. If the vinyl covers should ever tear or simply wear thin due to long use, they can be replaced with BodyBest Vinyl Bolster Covers.

Previous article Choosing Pillows, Headrests, and Face Cradles for the Massage Table
Next article Effleurage - The Gentle Touch in Massage Therapy

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