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I'm currently in massage therapy school and I absolutely love it, but yesterday class was very frustrating because I had to work on two overweight classmates.

With the first girl I had to practice my Swedish techniques. Kneading and compression were fairly simple, but multiple clumps of adipose tissue made it difficult to properly grasping the tissue for other methods.

On the second girl I had to palpitate the spine to locate the projections of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae. It was extremely difficult to locate the different processes of the vertebrae, and it caused pain when I pressed deep into the tissue.

I'm wondering if there are methods to use that can make it easier to work with bigger clients..

Tags: obesity

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Experience and personal development will help you. I think you are lucky they are in the class and your first experience with this body type isn't at work. Work with them as much as you can to develop your skills.

Thanks Daniel.

Daniel Cohen said:

Experience and personal development will help you. I think you are lucky they are in the class and your first experience with this body type isn't at work. Work with them as much as you can to develop your skills.

Aloha Zach,

 

Thanks for asking this particular question.

In English we may call these people "fat".  In the Hawaiian language the word used is "momona".  Momona means "sweet and juicy like a peach".  In traditional Hawaiian culture momona was a good thing.  In my reply here I'll use the word momona rather than fat or overweight.

The "technique" (if you could call it that) that most helped me to work on momona people who have lots of soft tissue was to choose an attitute of compassion.  

Many momona folks feel self conscious about their bodies.  Many of us (myself included) who are somewhere between slim and obese at times feel self conscious and even negative about the fat that we do have.   I know so many women who look really good to me who want to loose weight. Years ago when I thought about all this I decided that part of my job in giving massage to momona folks was to help them love themselves by seeing them (fat and all) as beautiful and seeing them as having very special bodies.  Ever since I had that realization, whenever I give massage to momona folks I do so with loving attitude, and with the thought that I am touching a moon goddess, child of god, or other wonderful character. 

Secondly, I encourage you to seek to do trades with momona folks and to ask for their guidance.  Tell them you feel kinda lost and need their help to improve your work.  They are the experts!

In general, developing the ability to keep your hands soft allows you to go deep in a comfortable way.  When we tighten our hands we become aggressive.  Feel you fingers typing.  They stay soft but just strong enough to depress the keys.  Too much strength doesn't work.  Learning to use just enough strength and also jsut enough softness in our hands is a life long learning experience.

It's wonderful that you were willing to put this question on the table.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

It also helps me to be aware that people's fat layer makes hugging especially wonderful. In my experience momona folks often times give the best hugs.

 

I also encourage you to invite momona folks to do massage trades with you and to get their input on how to best do the work.  It's generally about softening your hands, and they can help you with that.  If you are upfront with them about the fact that you feel like you are groping about in the dark and could use their input, I bet they will be happy to help you.

 

 

This is very good advice. I always want to do the best possible work and I think making people feel good about themselves is part of that.

When you talk about keeping hands "soft" are you referring to body mechanics? Could you go into more detail about that?

Barbara Helynn Heard said:

Aloha Zach,

 

Thanks for asking this particular question.

In English we may call these people "fat".  In the Hawaiian language the word used is "momona".  Momona means "sweet and juicy like a peach".  In traditional Hawaiian culture momona was a good thing.  In my reply here I'll use the word momona rather than fat or overweight.

The "technique" (if you could call it that) that most helped me to work on momona people who have lots of soft tissue was to choose an attitute of compassion.  

Many momona folks feel self conscious about their bodies.  Many of us (myself included) who are somewhere between slim and obese at times feel self conscious and even negative about the fat that we do have.   I know so many women who look really good to me who want to loose weight. Years ago when I thought about all this I decided that part of my job in giving massage to momona folks was to help them love themselves by seeing them (fat and all) as beautiful and seeing them as having very special bodies.  Ever since I had that realization, whenever I give massage to momona folks I do so with loving attitude, and with the thought that I am touching a moon goddess, child of god, or other wonderful character. 

Secondly, I encourage you to seek to do trades with momona folks and to ask for their guidance.  Tell them you feel kinda lost and need their help to improve your work.  They are the experts!

In general, developing the ability to keep your hands soft allows you to go deep in a comfortable way.  When we tighten our hands we become aggressive.  Feel you fingers typing.  They stay soft but just strong enough to depress the keys.  Too much strength doesn't work.  Learning to use just enough strength and also jsut enough softness in our hands is a life long learning experience.

It's wonderful that you were willing to put this question on the table.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

It also helps me to be aware that people's fat layer makes hugging especially wonderful. In my experience momona folks often times give the best hugs.

 

I also encourage you to invite momona folks to do massage trades with you and to get their input on how to best do the work.  It's generally about softening your hands, and they can help you with that.  If you are upfront with them about the fact that you feel like you are groping about in the dark and could use their input, I bet they will be happy to help you.

 

 

Good question!!  I am looking forward to reading the replies!  

I am a "newbie".  And I struggle with specific work when i am working with an over weight client.  

what specific work do you refer to?

Jimswife said:

Good question!!  I am looking forward to reading the replies!  

I am a "newbie".  And I struggle with specific work when i am working with an over weight client.  
I think it's more of palpating for bony landmarks than specific work.  Mainly when I have a client with low back, glute/hip pain.  So gluteal region.  

Daniel Cohen said:

what specific work do you refer to?

Jimswife said:

Good question!!  I am looking forward to reading the replies!  

I am a "newbie".  And I struggle with specific work when i am working with an over weight client.  

Aloha all, and especially Zach,

 

Zach, you replied to my previous post with the question "When you talk about keeping hands "soft" are you referring to body mechanics? Could you go into more detail about that?"  Here's my reply:

 

Yes, soft hands is certainly related to body mechanics.  When we work from our core we usually have soft and controlled hands.  For example, stop what you are doing right now and pantomine the act of peeling a carrot.  As you do so, notice the level of tension in the hand that is hoding the imaginary peeler - it is most likely firm yet soft.  You are most likely not forcefully and agressively grasping the tool.  Now as you pantomine peeling the carrot, notice the position of your belly.  I'll bet your abs are gently pulled in.  As an experiment, notice what happens if as you pantomine peeling the carrot you let your belly hang out.  Notice how doing so changes the tension and sense of control in the hand peeling the carrot.

You can do the same experiment with washing your face, sawing a piece of wood, or using just about any tool.  Then repeat this experiment while massaging your own hand.

So yes, one way to develop a deep yet gentle and sensitive touch in massage is by improving our body awareness and body mechanics.  In my experience practicing martial arts, yoga, dance, feldencrais, pilates, and/or many sports is very helpful in deveoping our skills and our touch as massage practitioners.

Other ways besides focusing on body mechanics exist to help us develop deep yet gentle touch.  For example, our thoughts.  That's why I described above how choosing an attitude of compassion helped me to become skilled at working on momona folks (big and soft folks). 

Repeating mantras helps me to soften my hands.  Here are some of my favorites: I love you, thank you, and the client's name.  Try this: stop reading and massage your own face, leg or hand.  As you do so, think "I love you" or "thank you" or your own name.  Do you notice a softening in your massaging hand as you do so?

 

Another tool to soften our hands is  our breath.  As you massage yourself,  synchonize your strokes with your inhale.  Notice whether this softens your touch.  Any weight lifters out there?  Do you synchonize your power lifts with your exhale?  Our exhale generally works well to support use of force.  In contrast, our inhale supports genle control.

One final tool I'll mention that works well to soften hands is prayer. 

 

Now please, don't take my word for any of these ideas..... try for yourself, and let us know your results.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

 

 

WOW!  Thank you!  

Barbara Helynn Heard said:

Aloha all, and especially Zach,

 

Zach, you replied to my previous post with the question "When you talk about keeping hands "soft" are you referring to body mechanics? Could you go into more detail about that?"  Here's my reply:

 

Yes, soft hands is certainly related to body mechanics.  When we work from our core we usually have soft and controlled hands.  For example, stop what you are doing right now and pantomine the act of peeling a carrot.  As you do so, notice the level of tension in the hand that is hoding the imaginary peeler - it is most likely firm yet soft.  You are most likely not forcefully and agressively grasping the tool.  Now as you pantomine peeling the carrot, notice the position of your belly.  I'll bet your abs are gently pulled in.  As an experiment, notice what happens if as you pantomine peeling the carrot you let your belly hang out.  Notice how doing so changes the tension and sense of control in the hand peeling the carrot.

You can do the same experiment with washing your face, sawing a piece of wood, or using just about any tool.  Then repeat this experiment while massaging your own hand.

So yes, one way to develop a deep yet gentle and sensitive touch in massage is by improving our body awareness and body mechanics.  In my experience practicing martial arts, yoga, dance, feldencrais, pilates, and/or many sports is very helpful in deveoping our skills and our touch as massage practitioners.

Other ways besides focusing on body mechanics exist to help us develop deep yet gentle touch.  For example, our thoughts.  That's why I described above how choosing an attitude of compassion helped me to become skilled at working on momona folks (big and soft folks). 

Repeating mantras helps me to soften my hands.  Here are some of my favorites: I love you, thank you, and the client's name.  Try this: stop reading and massage your own face, leg or hand.  As you do so, think "I love you" or "thank you" or your own name.  Do you notice a softening in your massaging hand as you do so?

 

Another tool to soften our hands is  our breath.  As you massage yourself,  synchonize your strokes with your inhale.  Notice whether this softens your touch.  Any weight lifters out there?  Do you synchonize your power lifts with your exhale?  Our exhale generally works well to support use of force.  In contrast, our inhale supports genle control.

One final tool I'll mention that works well to soften hands is prayer. 

 

Now please, don't take my word for any of these ideas..... try for yourself, and let us know your results.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

 

 

The love, kindness, and humanity expressed in this answer is refreshing and comforting. And rare in a world where bashing the overweight is so common. Therapists with this attitude of acceptance and caring should stay as busy as they want to be!

As far as methods for making the work on larger clients easier, using a table warmer and heat packs on particularly dense areas really helps soften the tissues (if your client can tolerate it). If approached in the manner expressed by Barbara Helynn Heard, I expect every massage will be successful! 
 
Barbara Helynn Heard said:

Aloha Zach,

 

Thanks for asking this particular question.

In English we may call these people "fat".  In the Hawaiian language the word used is "momona".  Momona means "sweet and juicy like a peach".  In traditional Hawaiian culture momona was a good thing.  In my reply here I'll use the word momona rather than fat or overweight.

The "technique" (if you could call it that) that most helped me to work on momona people who have lots of soft tissue was to choose an attitute of compassion.  

Many momona folks feel self conscious about their bodies.  Many of us (myself included) who are somewhere between slim and obese at times feel self conscious and even negative about the fat that we do have.   I know so many women who look really good to me who want to loose weight. Years ago when I thought about all this I decided that part of my job in giving massage to momona folks was to help them love themselves by seeing them (fat and all) as beautiful and seeing them as having very special bodies.  Ever since I had that realization, whenever I give massage to momona folks I do so with loving attitude, and with the thought that I am touching a moon goddess, child of god, or other wonderful character. 

Secondly, I encourage you to seek to do trades with momona folks and to ask for their guidance.  Tell them you feel kinda lost and need their help to improve your work.  They are the experts!

In general, developing the ability to keep your hands soft allows you to go deep in a comfortable way.  When we tighten our hands we become aggressive.  Feel you fingers typing.  They stay soft but just strong enough to depress the keys.  Too much strength doesn't work.  Learning to use just enough strength and also jsut enough softness in our hands is a life long learning experience.

It's wonderful that you were willing to put this question on the table.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

It also helps me to be aware that people's fat layer makes hugging especially wonderful. In my experience momona folks often times give the best hugs.

 

I also encourage you to invite momona folks to do massage trades with you and to get their input on how to best do the work.  It's generally about softening your hands, and they can help you with that.  If you are upfront with them about the fact that you feel like you are groping about in the dark and could use their input, I bet they will be happy to help you.

 

 

A beautiful answer! As one of those "momona" people, I appreciate that.

Barbara Helynn Heard said:

Aloha Zach,

 

Thanks for asking this particular question.

In English we may call these people "fat".  In the Hawaiian language the word used is "momona".  Momona means "sweet and juicy like a peach".  In traditional Hawaiian culture momona was a good thing.  In my reply here I'll use the word momona rather than fat or overweight.

The "technique" (if you could call it that) that most helped me to work on momona people who have lots of soft tissue was to choose an attitute of compassion.  

Many momona folks feel self conscious about their bodies.  Many of us (myself included) who are somewhere between slim and obese at times feel self conscious and even negative about the fat that we do have.   I know so many women who look really good to me who want to loose weight. Years ago when I thought about all this I decided that part of my job in giving massage to momona folks was to help them love themselves by seeing them (fat and all) as beautiful and seeing them as having very special bodies.  Ever since I had that realization, whenever I give massage to momona folks I do so with loving attitude, and with the thought that I am touching a moon goddess, child of god, or other wonderful character. 

Secondly, I encourage you to seek to do trades with momona folks and to ask for their guidance.  Tell them you feel kinda lost and need their help to improve your work.  They are the experts!

In general, developing the ability to keep your hands soft allows you to go deep in a comfortable way.  When we tighten our hands we become aggressive.  Feel you fingers typing.  They stay soft but just strong enough to depress the keys.  Too much strength doesn't work.  Learning to use just enough strength and also jsut enough softness in our hands is a life long learning experience.

It's wonderful that you were willing to put this question on the table.

 

Aloha,

Barbara Helynn

www.lomilomi-massage.org

 

It also helps me to be aware that people's fat layer makes hugging especially wonderful. In my experience momona folks often times give the best hugs.

 

I also encourage you to invite momona folks to do massage trades with you and to get their input on how to best do the work.  It's generally about softening your hands, and they can help you with that.  If you are upfront with them about the fact that you feel like you are groping about in the dark and could use their input, I bet they will be happy to help you.

 

 

Hi Xach.

in many ways the human factor within massage therapist, playing significant role in successful treatment outcome. Therefore compassions, exceptions ect. is an important standards for us to adopt . Massage therapy is an a healing art, Fields where practitioners with better developed sense of touch reaching faster and better results.You should develop pattern that after the first few minutes you will not really realizing, gender , age , human body constitution, but focusing /performing /activating sense of  touch which is to have understanding on what you are doing  to the level of imagination /see with your hands what eyes cannot see. Subcutaneous fat deposits and no matter how big they are, is not huge barriers to palpate spinous processes, or other bony marks. It's more preset of mine when one see larger person and therefore one having difficulties to discover it.

Good luck with studies.

Best wishes.

Boris

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