Side Effects: The Benefits of Side Lying Massage

by Lisa Birnesser on January 20, 2010

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Most typical massages are received while positioned on your stomach or back. But what about getting a massage on the side of your body? This article explores, postural issues, the benefits of side lying massage as well as when it may be an appropriate treatment approach.

First, let’s look at what can happen to our posture just through everyday living. Our posture is forced to adapt to the effects of gravity during work, rest and leisure. If you add trunk muscle weakness, lack of activity and everyday stress into the mix, your body begins to adapt to a new posture. And this new posture may lead to some very interesting positions in your daily life, such as sitting with one leg tucked under your bottom just to be “comfortable”.  Muscles may begin to tighten and overall flexibility is reduced, and thus, the onset of stiffness and pain in your body. A great analogy is to think of your body as an accordion on its end. When the accordion is stretched to its length, there is space among the folds. As soon as the accordion is shortened, the instrument collapses onto itself.  Think about this analogy the next time you are driving or sitting in an office chair. Do you sit up straight to improve your posture only to find yourself minutes later back to the collapsed position?

Now that we examined the effects of gravity on your posture, let’s review why and when side lying massage may be appropriate. First, the side lying position provides greater access to muscles of the shoulder joint, hip joint, trunk, thigh and inner outer legs and other areas. For example, a muscle called quadratus lumborum (QL) is best accessed in the side lying position. Quadratus lumborum can be a common source of back pain in clients, since one of its functions is to stabilize the low back. Another example would be the IT (iliotibial) band, which runs from your hip to just below you knee. The IT band may reduce in flexibility particularly in athletes who cycle or run as well at folks who sit or stand excessively during work.  Side lying position during massage allows the therapist to treat the IT band while simultaneously controlling the amount of pressure applied to the thigh for an effective therapy session.

One more reason for a side lying massage is treatment of the expecting mom. Pregnancy massage is performed in side lying position about the fourth month of pregnancy. This time frame varies from mother to mother, depending whether there is a multiple pregnancy or comfort level. Massage on neck, shoulders, lower back, hips legs and feet can be help release physical and emotional tension, improves circulation and mobility, alleviates stress on overloaded joints, and eases sore spots.

To make the most of your side lying massage, bring a pair of loose-fitting shorts. Ladies, add a sports bra that unhooks in the back. You can expect a postural assessment before lying on the table. You will be positioned with a pillow both under your head and between your knees. Side lying position also allows the therapist to observe for signs of discomfort during the treatment. Some treatments for pain relief, other than pregnancy massage require deep tissue techniques.
So, remember, the sides of your body need massaged too. Ask you massage therapist if it’s right for you.

 


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