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Massage therapists have usually worked with clients at some point that they knew could benefit from a different approach. This does not always mean you need to add new massage techniques, new equipment or different massage lotion or oils. It could be as simple as adding different positioning.

Using side-lying positioning can help you better work with some of your existing clients. Clients that could benefit from this type of positioning include elderly and frail clients, clients who are pregnant or recovering from surgery, or those with implanted medical equipment. Learning to work with clients in this position can help to increase comfort, accessibility, safety and effectiveness.

Think, too, of clients who have health conditions or medical treatments that limit their positioning during a massage therapy session. Side-lying position can help you remain effective while also avoiding undesirable and painful pressure on a pacemaker, ostomy bag, chemotherapy port, radiation burn or healing surgical scar, to name a few. Patients recovering from heart, breast, abdominal, eye or oral surgeries, as well as pregnant women, are often uneasy about, and most have been advised by their doctors, to avoid anterior pressure.

In addition to these physical comfort advantages, side-lying is often more emotionally comforting. Remember that stress and negative feelings often create or accompany physical pain. Side-lying position, more closely than any other, recreates the fetal position that many find reassuring and restful, and can encourage useful and compassionate communication between you and your client, unhampered by the confines of a face cradle.

With some clients, lying on their back for an extended period results in a drop in blood pressure. Clients most likely to experience this supine hypotensive syndrome are pregnant, have certain heart and lung diseases or compromise, or are overweight, and would benefit from side-lying positioning during massage.

Being able to position your clients in different ways can help bring a wider variety of clients to your practice. Learning and actively using side-lying positioning gives you one more way to work with a wide variety of clients, from maternity clients to clients facing health problems to athletes.

By providing more physical and emotional comfort in your positioning, your work might just become more effective too.

©The Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks
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