Colorful pillows stackedWorking with pregnant clients is based on two factors: safety and comfort.

An easily accessible and inexpensive way to address both of these factors is with the use of bolsters, cushions, and pillows for pregnant massage clients.

Invest in Pillows

Just ask Susan G. Salvo, owner/operator of Bodyworks Massage Therapy in Lake Charles, Louisiana and author of Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice and Mosby’s Guide to Pathology for the Massage Therapist. A firm believer in cushioning during pregnancy massage, she admited to being a “pillow junkie.”

Pillows, filled with feathers or foam and flaxseed, as well as bolsters, which typically have a foam center, are an integral part of her pregnancy massage toolkit. “I have three favorites—king, standard and baby,” said Salvo. “You can tuck one under the belly for extra support. When the client is side-lying, you can use pillows in a tiered system.”

Balance and Position Matter

Salvo explained that pillows help create a balance between the knees, ankles and hips. “The height of the elevation is determined by hip size. Don’t have the hip higher than the knee and ankle,” she said. “You should be able to balance a tray of food on the hip, knee and ankle.”

The same principle applies to the upper body. “Like leg positioning, the arm, elbow and wrist should be on the same level plane,” Salvo said. “I like to have the wrist on the ledge created by a king [on the bottom] and a standard size pillow [on top] stacked on each other.” She also likes to fill the space between the head and shoulder with the appropriate size pillow.

Salvo emphasized that pillows and bolsters should not be on the table while the client is transferring on and off. “You should have a barrier-free table,” she said. “Don’t create an obstacle course.”

Materials and Cleaning

Bolsters maintain their shape and are usually covered with polyurethane or vinyl, much like the massage table, and provide firmer support, according to Salvo. “Both bolsters and pillows should be covered with a cloth or pillow case,” she said. “Anything that touches the client has to be changed and cleaned after each use.”

You can toss pillows into a washing machine with a gentle baby laundry detergent. Pillowcases should be cleaned after every use. Manufacturers recommend cleaning bolsters regularly with a nonabrasive, nonalcoholic product. “Harsh products break down the plasticizers in the bolster,” Salvo said.

Pillows tend to lose their loft over time. “If you use them for 20 clients a month, you’d want to change them every three to five years,” Salvo suggested. “The best time to buy is during the January and June white sales.”

Comfort for All

Massage therapists who want to offer pregnant clients a better experience might want to stock up on pillows, said Salvo, who added, “You want to accommodate all shapes and sizes so you have to have lots of pillows on hand.” Enhance the experience with pillows for pregnant massage clients.