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Massage Draping Explained

A colleague and I were discussing draping techniques recently, in particular good techniques to keep a client protected and comfortable for stretching.  Unless our therapist is using more clinical techniques or moving us around much, we're usually draped with "Modesty" or "Spa" draping.

Regardless of what style of draping is used, it should always be explained by the therapist.  As I outlined in my post about safety of our clients in the treatment room, safety and informed consent are essential.

Modesty draping is simple, easy to do and effectively covers our personal areas, but as you can see below, it's not at all effective for keeping a client covered for major joint mobilizations or stretching.

The part of the body to be worked is uncovered, simply folding the sheet back on itself away from the area to be worked.  The sheet may also be tucked under the opposite side of the body without any mobilization.  Modesty draping is great when there are many areas to work during a timed session since it is very quick to do.

Tight Draping
Unless my client is specific that they do not want any stretching I don't often use spa draping and instead prefer to tightly drape each area of the body so I can easily transition from manual techniques into mobilizations and stretching without needing to change the draping.  Some people also refer to this as "sheet origami".  A very simple guiding rule to unsure tight draping:

  1. Uncover the body part to be treated, taking care to only on cover the limb to be treated.
  2. Elevate the body part, supporting the weight so that the client does not have to flex to support themselves. 
  3. Using the edge of the sheet, wrap/tuck the sheet under the elevated limb to be treated.
  4. Gently lower the limb back to the table, using the clients own body weight to hold the tight draping in place.
    1. For leg draping in particular, the edge the sheet can be placed in the clients hand so they have additional control and safety.

There are many benefits to tightly draping.
  • Maintaining the comfort and modesty of the client
  • Properly draped, the sheets will not come lose during a stretching allowing both client and therapist to focus in on the stretch.
  • I personally find it to be a more caring touch when a therapist drapes me securely.  Modesty draping is effective for manual bodywork, but not very secure.

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