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In this Post: Working over the clothing may seem hard to do in massage. But it isn’t, not if you get creative and think outside the box.
Many therapists are intimidated by working over clothing. They hold limiting beliefs around the idea of giving a thorough massage when they have to work through layers. This idea is nonsense!
There are many ways you can massage the body over garments. Don’t get so hung up on the way you usually work and underestimate the power of the tools you already have.
Certain techniques lend themselves particularly useful when approaching the body through layers. These are techniques you are already using. Now utilize them just a tad differently.
Massage Techniques That Work Great For Working Over The Clothing
- Petrissage – Yes, you can knead over clothes. Think about all the times your cat has done just that to you.
- Compression – Compression is a lovely technique to use over layers, such a comforting touch!
- Tapotement – Any drummers out there? You guys always rock at tapotement.
- Vibration – Use your elbow, your finger tips, and your palms to shake it up.
- Pin and Stretch – My favorite. I love me some good ol’ pin and stretching. Especially in the glutes!
Recently, I witnessed a therapist who was scheduled a 60-minute massage. After 45 minutes, they came out of the treatment room, stating that there was nothing more they could do because the client hadn’t removed their clothing.
I wanted to scream! The client had scheduled 60 minutes, they wanted 60 minutes, and this therapist copped out. They failed to think outside the box, get creative, and come up with a unique treatment plan tailored to the client’s specific needs.
Once, I massaged a woman’s hand for 105 minutes — one single hand. Of course, the woman who I was treating had crushed her hand under a cows foot, so she had some severe issues in that one hand. But even so, it goes to show that there are ways to utilize your time other than the classic effleurage you might be accustom to implementing.
Plus, some types of massage are specifically designed to be performed over clothing. It is almost like they were actually developed for people to keep their clothes on. How novel is that!?!
Types of Massages Which Work Well Over Clothing
- Seated Chair Massage
- Clothed Sports Massage
- Sometimes Geriatric Massage
- Sometimes Reflexology
- Thai Massage
- Barefoot Fujian Massage
Being trained in some of the above methods is helpful because it gives you tools. Even if you never intend to offer Thai massage in your practice, you might find one or two moves that you can incorporate into a session.
About two years ago, I took a Barefoot Fujian Massage course in Frisco, Colorado. Never once have I given a paying client this treatment. But I am so grateful I took the class. It challenged me to look at treating the body differently. It reminded me of some methods I had long ago stopped incorporating. And it was fun!
Truly, I encourage you to try taking a class that stretches you a little. Something that is just a tad outside of your wheel-house. I think you will be happy that you did!
The Reality of Why Someone May Choose to Leave Their Clothes On
Sometimes people leave their clothes on because they are getting sports massage after an event in a public setting. Sometimes we massage the elderly, and it is physically hard for them to undress. Other times we are performing chair massage in an office setting. And then there are times where it seems a little strange that someone left their clothes on for a regular old standard table massage.
Before you get frustrated, thinking, “Why did they leave their damn bra on?” Check yourself. There may be a good and valid reason. And while at times it might seem helpful to know these reasons, refrain from pressing. Often clients come to us with sordid touch histories.
If we alienate clients by making them feel awkward about leaving garments on, we are causing further harm. Massage should be a safe event. One that helps undo the effects of trauma, not add fuel to that fire!
Related: Asking A Massage Client to Undress
I feel passionate that it is essential as therapists to be sensitive to the reality that touch may not have always been a positive experience for everyone all of the time. That we should feel honored to be a part of someone’s journey to discovering or rediscovering what healthy touch means and feels like. Not be frustrated because they didn’t fit into our perfect mold of how a massage client SHOULD act!
Before you go prying, or unhooking someone’s bra (yes, I have seen this done), take a moment. Think, is it necessary that I work under the clothing? The answer is always NO. No, you don’t NEED to go under the clothing to do useful work.
There is absolutely no reason as a trained professional you couldn’t come up with an effective treatment plan for clients who choose to leave some or all of their clothing on. You have tools. Get creative therapists, think outside the box, make me proud!
It is all too easy to get comfortable in the routines we have developed. But, that doesn’t always serve our clients. We are the professionals. So let’s act like professionals. Let’s educate ourselves so that we feel confident when someone asks us to step outside our standard methods. Let’s become empowered with an array of methods.
Get creative. Slow down. And enjoy a change of pace from your usual massage routine.
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008