Choosing Pillows, Headrests, and Face Cradles
Support for the weight of a patient’s head during treatment is essential. The muscles of the neck and shoulders can easily be strained, and may themselves be the reason for the treatment. In order to fully relax, it’s vital that the patient be comfortable both prone and supine. The average adult’s head weighs about 5kg (11 lbs), so taking the weight off is critical.
Like bolsters and body wedges, supports for the head and neck come in many forms, and there are a few different approaches.
We all recognize the importance of a comfortable pillow for a good night’s sleep. Whether soft or firm, sleeping (or even lying down) without a pillow is nearly unthinkable. For the therapist, pillowcases and pillow covers might be the prime consideration, as they can be quickly switched or wiped down between clients.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
Percale is a very popular fabric for pillow cases due to its high thread count. It is smooth against the skin, and washes very well. Percale pillowcases are available in varying thread counts and sizes, and are quite economical when purchased in bulk. Dacron (polyester) is a standard stuffing for pillows, but they are also available stuffed with foam cubes, memory foam, feather down, bamboo fibres, and even flax seeds.
Regardless of the materials used to construct a pillow, in the clinic setting a vinyl protective pillow cover may be the most pragmatic way to protect pillows over the long term.. They are stain-resistant and waterproof, and can easily be sterilized between appointments. Simply wipe the protector down with a product like PreEmpt or Germiphene Wipes. Wipe off any residual cleaner with a paper towel or microfibre cloth. If any trace of it remains, wipe again with a very slightly damp cloth.
Massage table headrests are intended for use when the client is lying supine on their back. They extend out and off the main surface of the table, providing comfortable support. Although they are built to last, one of the most common causes of damage to head rests is when they receive the weight of the client in mounting or dismounting the table. It’s wise to offer instructions to the client to avoid this kind of damage.
The chances are high that most treatment tables are already equipped with a headrest, but if one needs to be replaced, pay attention to the table’s brand or manufacturer. EarthLite and Oakworks can be swapped as needed, but some others are proprietary, and not necessarily interchangeable from one brand to another.
In the prone position the head weighs just as much, so face-down support is called for. Again, many tables include a face cradle, but they are also available from quality table brands like EarthLite face cradles, Oakworks, and Nomad. They provide gentle, comfortable support to the client’s face, but also assist in keeping the spine as straight as possible during treatment. Laying flat, with the spine straight, is difficult to achieve without a face cradle. Face cradles for massage tables are typically crescent-shaped to allow for easy breathing and conversation, and to prevent feelings of claustrophobia.
Many face cradles are available in easy-to-clean vinyl, but cradle covers are also available in washable flannel, microfiber, and fleece. There are even disposable headrest/cradle covers, but these are single use only, and not terribly friendly to the environment. Our most popular, tried-and-true face cradle covers are the Flannel Face Rest Cover with Sewn-in Drape and the Jersey Fitted Face Rest Cover. Both are comfortable, easy to use, and available in economical bulk quantities for spas and clinics.
There are some very high-end head rests and face cradles available that may provide a step-up improvement for the massage table. For instance, the EarthLite Headrest Caress Platform has highly adjustable positioning to accommodate any facial shape. It reduces pressure on the sinuses, and improves overall cushioning.
Likewise, the Oakworks Boiance Face Rest Cradle provides a kind of ultimate user experience with its highly engineered comfort padding and open design. The patient can lie face down comfortably for extended treatments. Massage table accessories such as these allow the therapist to expand their treatment options with the client's comfort as top priority.