Bolster Your Confidence | A Guide to Bolstering

A Guide to Bolstering

Have you ever experienced that nagging discomfort of trying to relax while lying down and just not being able to achieve a level of comfort, or if you are already hurting, the pain worsening?

Proper body support is so important, especially for those who experience discomfort because of certain physical conditions. Making your client as comfortable as possible during a massage and inquiring about their comfort at intervals throughout the massage will be appreciated and can also aid in client retention.

Here are some tips about bolstering in different incumbent (lying down) positions that can increase client comfort during massage; which by the way, can help during sleep time, too.

If your client is in the prone (face down) position, you can use a bolster in the following ways:

• Under their clavicle (chest) bone
Under Chest

A small pillow or a folded towel placed under the upper chest helps to relieve discomfort from overstretch in the area between the scapula, which can be caused by setting in front of a computer all day or any other type of work that requires holding your arms up and in front  all day. This is also great for any clients that have kyphosis/dowager’s hump.

• Under ankles
Under Ankles

This will help relieve the pressure at the low back and also from extending the feet and ankles for an extended period of time which may cause possible cramps.

• Under the hips/stomach
Under Hips

A regular or small pillow or a folded up towel placed under the hips can help alleviate the discomfort some people with back issues (such as scoliosis and sciatica) experience when lying face down.

If your client is in the Supine (face up) position, you can use a bolster in the following ways:

• Under the knees
Under Knees

Place the bolster (or a pillow) under the bend of the knees. This can help alleviate pressure on the low back. Circulation can be helped by extending the bolstering from the bend of the knees to the feet.  Raising the feet above the heart uses gravity to help return the venous blood to the heart.

• Under the head/shoulders
Elevated Head

If the client has breathing issues lying flat can be very uncomfortable.  A bolster or pillow under both head and shoulders to lift the upper respiratory area can make a big difference in that client’s comfort and ease of breathing. This is also needful for those who have experienced whip lash or have other cervical (neck) issues.

• Under Forearms/Wrists
Under Arm

Using a rolled up towel or pillow to bolster under forearms and/or wrists can be used if the client’s arms are uncomfortable.

If your client is lying on their side, you can use a bolster in the following ways:
Laying on Side

With the side-lying position, we want to support the client from chin to ankle in a way the will maintain a straight line along the spine and avoiding torquing of the spine.

• Under the head
It is important to place a pillow under the head for maintaining a straight line along the spine.

• Bolstering between the arms
Place the bolster between the client’s arms with the top arm parallel to the bottom arm, projecting forward from the body at about 90 degrees. It prevents torquing of the spine at the shoulders.

• Between Knees
Bolster between the recipient’s knees prevents torquing of the spine at the hips and undesirable positioning of the top knee. Keeping the legs parallel and slightly apart is more comfortable.

With all the above tips, you can be confident of you client’s comfort.

I would love to know what bolster challenges you have met while massaging and what did you do to assure your client’s comfort?

10 thoughts on “Bolster Your Confidence | A Guide to Bolstering”

  1. We have used the bolster under the ankles and under the knees and during pregnancy massage we used them on the sides as client was in side position. I never thought about the pillow under the arms or under the hips but would like to try them on myself and on my clients.

  2. Bolsters for me personally help me lower back. I have not had any challenges with it really. When laying in the supine position, having a pillow would be much more comfortable and may even help me fall asleep faster!

  3. I did not know there are so many ways to bolster and really make the client comfortable. I am excited to use them in class more.

  4. The largest challenge I have with a bolster is remembering to use the thing. I have started using a towel under me while prone to help with low back stiffness.

  5. I’m just getting started so I haven’t had much experience with using the bolsters yet. In my personal experience of getting massages, a bolster always helps relieve my lower back. I like the idea of one for my neck, I’ve never had a massage therapist offer that as an option. I have neck problems and sometimes it is not comfortable for me when lying on my back.

  6. Hey guys,
    It helps with my back pain and my only real problem with it is that there is no Air Pump that came with it, and at 7 months pregnant it hard to blow it up. You figure for the price it would come with everything it needed to set up and take down….