At Legacies Sports Massage & Chiropractic, we have chosen to use bolsters for lower extremity support during a massage therapy treatment compared to pillows which are used by most other facilities. The reason is quite simple yet multifaceted: A triangular bolster offers ideal support to a patient, whether they are prone (facedown) or supine (face-up). To be in a supported position during a treatment is crucial to optimizing therapy outcomes. Have you ever had a treatment where you are uncomfortable on the treatment table? You can’t relax, and you are more aware of pain – right? Removing compression and tension from joints and musculature is the first step a therapist makes before beginning a treatment. When face-up, the bolster unloads the back, supporting it against the table. In a facedown position, the bolster slackens the hamstrings that can oppose the lower back musculature if the legs were otherwise straight. A pillow cannot provide this support, unless several are stacked together – and even then a less than ideal angle for the knee is created.
The next reason that we use triangular bolsters is that they provide excellent drainage through elevation of the lower extremity. A pillow does not do this, unless again many are stacked together. Drainage is important therapeutically as it assists venous return and increases central blood volume, enhancing the effects of the massage treatment – even if the treatment is not aimed at the legs. An increase of central blood volume will accelerate circulatory results in the back, neck, shoulders, and even arms. One of the greatest therapeutic effects of Massage Therapy is how it influences circulation through the soft tissues – so assisting venous return and increasing central blood volume is easily achieved with the triangular bolster.
The final reason Legacies Sports Massage & Chiropractic uses triangular bolsters over pillows is hygiene. The bolsters are covered in a medical-grade vinyl that does not absorb bacteria, and we can wipe it clean easily with anti-bacterial wipes. Pillows, usually cased in cotton, are not a hygienic choice for a medical practice, and will harbor microbials.
So why don’t more massage therapy clinics use bolsters in treatment? As with most things in life it comes down to cost. A single medical grade bolster like ours will cost anywhere between $140 – $350. An expensive investment.
Massage Therapy Colleges do not even supply these to their students. So students learn in college to use pillows, and then graduate and practice using what they know: pillows. At Legacies Sports Massage & Chiropractic we stop and ask, “what’s best for our patients?”. We use bolsters because they offer superior support, ideal lower extremity drainage, and are the best choice in hygiene.