Massage and Obesity

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Obese persons can find it very uncomfortable the first time they come for full-body massage or the first time they meet with a new therapist. They are usually quite embarrassed about being exposed, about being touched, and some are even afraid a massage table might break when they get on the table or if they move at all. I try to be very sensitive to their discomfort, and one way to counteract that fear is by explaining all the procedures ahead of time, specifying which parts of the body will be touched. I always emphasize the draping that will be provided, and that only the part being massaged is every uncovered. Also, I use a full size sheet rather than a twin size sheet for a “normal” size person so that we have more to work with. If I know ahead of time that the client is obese, I allow extra time in the consultation for bonding, and for them just to generally feel relaxed and confident in my presence. I ask about their particular symptoms, and if it is difficult to be in any particular position, if it is difficult to roll over, to lay supine or prone for any length of time. For some obese people, it is difficult or impossible to lay with any comfort on their stomachs, so many times, we adapt with side-posture massage. I also prepare with extra pillows for support between the knees when laying side-posture. Frequently, they have aches and chronic pain simply from having to carry their bodies around. Range of motion for arms and legs and gentle stretching can be very life-giving to these persons, who are frequently not used to exercise. The benefits for massage for an obese person are numerous. Massage stimulates blood and lymph circulation and the elimination of toxins that are carried in the fat cells, helps relax muscle spasm and relieves pressure on the joints. Massage can even help obese persons have a better self-image and be less self-conscious of their bodies.

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