What’s a Bolster?

When you get a massage, the room is nice and cozy warm, the environment is quiet and relaxing. After the therapist leaves the room, you undress and get on the table, and there’s a bump under your knees. Maybe you don’t think much of it, but then again, maybe you think What is that thing?

That thing is the aptly named bolster, and there’s actually a very good reason it’s there, believe it or not. The bolster optimizes your comfort throughout the massage. They are made in different sizes as well, because every person is different and requires different levels of comfort throughout the massage.

When you’re lying on your back, the bolster is placed underneath your knees to straighten your spine and take pressure off of your lower back. Imagine lying on your back for a half hour with no lumbar support. Lying flat on your back can be very uncomfortable for anyone, but especially for someone who has chronic low back pain.



Image by sub-3.com


Have you ever noticed that when you lay on your stomach, your feet tend to rotate medially and it just feels awkward and weird? Once you’ve turned over so that you’re lying on your stomach, the massage therapist will move the bolster so that your ankles rest on top of it. This keeps your feet from that uncomfortable rotation and provides support for the ankles. This also allows the therapist easier access to the muscles of the feet and lower leg. Along with all those other amazing things it does, it provides support to your spine, allowing it to rest in a more normal position.

In some cases, a client may need to be in the side-lying position, the bolster can be set between the knees to stabilize the spine and keep the knees from rubbing against each other. It can rest under the belly of a pregnant woman to provide her with additional support.

There are also bolsters that can be placed underneath the neck, providing cervical support. These can also be placed between the breasts of a woman lying face down to prevent that unpleasant squishing feeling. Smaller bolsters can also be placed underneath the belly if the client finds it comfortable.



Image by Astra-Lite


Bolsters come in all sorts of sizes, and most massage therapists have more than one. So a client should not be afraid to ask for a different one if she feels that the one being used is too small or too big. If your still not comfortable, ask again for another one. It may take some time to find exactly what works for you.

I’ve said it before and I cannot stress it enough, don’t be afraid to speak up at any time during your massage if you are not comfortable. Every client requires a different level of support, and every massage therapist knows this. Your massage therapist can’t possibly know what you need unless you tell her, and she will not be offended if you speak up and tell her what you need. After a couple of sessions, you and your therapist will have a better understanding of each other.


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit www.tonyasapiel.massagetherapy.com

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