You’re lying on your side at 2am, wincing from the sciatic nerve pain that’s woken you up for the third time this week.
“That’s it,” you think, “I’ve got to do something about this!”
You’ve had enough of the low back and hip pain, especially since you’re only five months into your pregnancy and there’s likely more aches to come. So you book a prenatal massage, confident that your massage therapist will whisk you from sleepless nights to glowing pregnant bliss.
But how will you stay relaxed on a massage table when lying down makes all of your pregnancy discomforts worse?
The Solution: Perfectly placed massage pillows and bolsters are the key ingredients to a prenatal massage that reduces aches and creates deep relaxation. And doesn’t every expecting mother deserve to relax?
Why Bolstering Is So Important In Prenatal Massage
Most prenatal massage is done in the side-lying position, since pregnant women should limit the time they spend on their back, and face-down massage gets difficult as the pregnancy rounds out. You may occasionally be offered the semi-reclined position if your therapist uses a sloped body cushion to place under your upper back to create a “recliner” of sorts.
While your massages before pregnancy may have been simply on your stomach or your back, rest assured that you can get just as good of a massage on your side, as long as you’re properly bolstered and positioned.
Correct Body Alignment For A Safe Massage
Proper body alignment during a side-lying massage is incredibly important and bolstering (massage lingo for supporting the body with pillows or foam bolsters) is crucial for achieving that alignment. When the body is in proper alignment, with the knees stacked one above the other and the hips lined up with the shoulders, it mimics the body’s natural lines and allows for better range of motion of the joints.
the key to perfect bolstering during a pregnancy massage is good support from all sides, avoiding any twist in the spine or excess pull on the belly
Read more: Massage: A Natural Treatment For Postpartum & Pregnancy Depression
The natural curve of the low back is encouraged by keeping the shoulders rolled back where they should be, rather than hunched forward (we spend enough time hunched over phones and steering wheels each day as it is!).
This type of position is helped immensely by placing a pillow in front of the chest for the upper arm to rest on, rather than the arm hanging down and compressing the shoulder girdle towards the chest.
Keeping the hips and ankles stacked one on top of the other reduces the twist in the low spine and allows space for the sciatic nerve and the tendon and ligaments of the pelvis. Keeping a pillow or bolster between the legs during side-lying pregnancy massage makes this position possible.
The Best Bolsters And Pillows For Pregnancy Massage Support
There are different uses for pillows or foam core bolsters during a prenatal massage, and both are helpful for supporting different parts of the body. Massage bolsters have a hard foam core, allowing them to maintain their shape over a long period of time while still remaining comfortable. Pillows, however, will lose their loft over time, so it’s important to replace them as they become less firm.
pillows will lose their loft over time, so it’s important to replace them as they become less firm
Firmness, Foam, And Shape
The best bolsters and pillow arrangements to use during pregnancy will vary depending on how far along in your pregnancy you are and whether you have any additional limitations on your movement. Your therapist should always be willing to add or remove pillows and bolsters until you are both properly aligned and comfortable.
The key to perfect bolstering during a pregnancy massage is that you should be well-supported from all sides, avoiding any twist in the spine or excess pull on the belly, which would lead to stress on the pelvis and structures surrounding it.
A firm pillow should be placed under the head, not the neck, to ensure the cervical spine stays balanced. A small foam wedge or square shape can be placed under the belly, close to the pelvis, to support the belly and reduce the tension of the uterus pulling against the intrauterine ligaments that connect it to the pelvis.
A pillow or bolster should be placed under the upper arm to prevent twist in the spine, and a pillow between the slightly bent knees keeps the legs stable.
What About Pregnancy Massage Tables?
You may have heard of the so-called “pregnancy massage tables,” which have a hole in the center for your blossoming belly so that you can lie face down during the massage. As cozy as that might sound, these tables are not recommended. Here’s why we don’t use pregnancy massage tables at Zeel.
- They aren’t customizable: Finally, your stomach grows throughout pregnancy – but the holes in prenatal massages tables are typically just one size. And when it comes to pregnancy, one size definitely does not fit all – a pregnant stomach at five months is very different from a pregnant stomach at nine months. Not to mention, your baby’s weight (and your body type) are unique.
- Your stomach and back aren’t supported: Remember – the massage therapist will likely press on your sore muscles during your prenatal massage. When your stomach is unsupported (because it’s hanging free), that means that the therapist may inadvertently put too much pressure on your lower back – and cause the low back pain you’re trying to avoid.
- They could cause MORE stretchmarks: Lying on your stomach can also exacerbate stretch marks during pregnancy, because the unsupported stomach on a pregnancy massage table causes the skin to stretch.
- They could cause MORE discomfort: Massage is meant to ease aches. Tables with stomach holes cause aches. When you get on a table with a hole in it, you are pushing your soft stomach through an unyielding hole, allowing your stomach to rest unsupported. This can cause undue stress on the abdomen and stretch out your stomach ligaments.
Here at Zeel, we’re not the only ones don’t recommend cut out tables for pregnancy massage. The experts at like the American Pregnancy Association agree with our sentiments.
Prenatal Massage Eases Pregnancy Discomfort
Proper positioning and support from bolsters will give you the pregnancy massage your aching back is craving. Getting a relaxing prenatal massage at home is a great way to treat your pregnancy discomforts. Massage therapists from Zeel’s network know how to create the pillow throne you need to receive your massage safely and comfortably.
Book a massage to your today and find out how quickly you can feel relief.
Hristina Mangelova is a Content Manager and SEO specialist at JumpCrew. Previously she was a Content Manager at Zeel. View Hristina's profile on LinkedIn