Massage Bolsters and Massage Pillows

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Massage Bolsters

Massage bolster pillows come in many shapes and sizes. If you have a need for it chances are there is a bolster or pillow shape for it. Massage bolsters and pillows are considered a necessity by many massage practitioners in order to get the client into a better position that allows the muscles to be supported and fully relaxed. It doesn't matter if you have a portable massage table or a stationary one, we at Massage King think you need at least one bolster. If you think about it, how can you fully work and knead a muscle tissue that is tense because it is having to hold up the body.

Massage bolster pillows work in two ways. First, putting the right bolster, in the right shape and foam density, at the right position, can take the place of the muscle that is being used and therefore can let the muscle to relax and allows for better results during massage. Second, the bolster can be used to keep the body at rest in a particular position, not just taking the place of muscle to support the body but rather support it and support it in a certain shape or position. This opens up the tissue for better access.

Everyone knows that bolster pillows can and are routinely placed under necks, under knees and under ankles. Less thought about locations included under the arm that is on top when the client is laying on his or her side. This helps the arm say more level with the shoulder and it's respective side of the body instead of drooping down due to gravity. Other places include between the knees of each leg when the client on his or her side. Sometimes you may lay your client on your massage table and rotate or twist their shoulders opposite their hips to open up a muscle group and use a bolster to hold them comfortably in that position while working. You may even place a large soft contour bolster under the clients hips when having them lay face down. In fact, hundreds of uses in a variety of locations. We think a bolster massage pillow is a necessity for any therapist. In fact they are also used by chiropractors for better positioning and outcomes, physical therapy and occupational therapists for isolation during rehab, and even tattoo artists.

Clients come in all shapes and sizes, massage bolsters need to, too! Not sure if you need a fluffy or full round bolster? How about an angle or peak? Let us help you make the right choice! Whether or not you used a bolster regularly during massage sessions is up to you, but make now mistake about it: we at Massage King think everyone, and we mean everyone, should have at least one bolster available for use. We all have our favorites, like the half round, full round, and fluffy bolsters, but your needs will vary from client to client. Hopefully after reading this article you will be able to make a better informed decision about which massage bolster is right for you and your clients.


While color will not affect the outcome of the massage, it is nice to have consistency in appearance for your massage tables and accessories. It just looks more professional. To put it another way, it looks less haphazard. It looks like you have a plan instead of just throwing things together. Can you imagine trying to feel relaxed after having your eyes burned from trying to balance an orange bolster with a pink massage table? Wow... cover at least one of them please. If you saved some money because orange was on sale that day, or a friend sold it to you cheap, then at least consider getting a bolster cover to lessen the shock! If you don't think color consistency matters when setting the tone and environment then you haven't been paying attention.

If you are buying your bolster new at the same time you are buying a new massage table, many therapists forget that the upholstery colors differ between manufacturers. It's important to keep in mind that if you order a specific color bolster by one manufacturer and your massage table is made by another manufacturer, then the two vinyl upholstery colors are not likely to match, and, in some cases, may vary drastically. If you are interested in matching your bolsters pillows to your massage table then please consider these possibilities. For that reason we recommend buying your massage bolster pillows at the same time, from the same manufacturer, as you buy your massage table from.


Most massage therapy bolsters are covered with some type of vinyl. Good quality vinyl is durable, soft to the touch, and can be easily cleaned. Since the bolsters we sell come from the same manufacturers who produce the massage tables we sell, then you can rest assured the vinyl upholstery material is the same as the material that is used to cover massage tables. If you order your bolster and massage table at the same time from the same brand then your vinyl feel and colors will be a perfect match! Cleaning and care instructions are the same... and these are included in our buyer's guide.

Different manufacturers use different types of vinyl. In fact, you can really tell the difference! Usually, the less expensive, and dare we say it.. cheaper... massage tables and products will a vinyl that feels thinner, and more like a plastic. On the other hand the nice, more expensive, more professional brands use a noticeably different, better, softer vinyl that is more pleasing to the touch, and even feels warmer. You can really tell the difference. 

At the time of this writing, NatureSoft brand vinyl is used for most Earthlite massage tables and bolsters.  TerraTouch brand vinyl is used for the majority of Oakworks Massage massage therapy products. Both are very nice to the touch, both claim they are environmentally friendly, and in our opinion both are equally good.  


Vinyl - Most bolsters are covered with vinyl. Since our bolsters come from the same manufacturers who produce the massage tables we sell, this material is the same as the material that is used to cover massage tables. Cleaning and care instructions are the same... and these are included in our buyer's guide.

Flannel Covers - Covering a bolster with a flannel cover is just like covering you table with flannel sheets. It will allow you to protect the bolster from oil, wear and tear. They can also, as long as you keep your covers meticulously clean, present a professional appearance. These covers can also hide color differences between your bolster and your massage table. Flannel covers are relatively inexpensive. We have a full selection of bolster covers on

Fleece Covers - This is a relatively new development in the massage industry. As you will read, most bolsters are fairly firm. Adding a fleece cover is like adding a mattress pad to a firm bed - you still get the benefits of the firm mattress, but you get the comfort of the fleece.


Massage Bolsters come in a wide variety of shapes. Most manufacturers have all the basics, such as full round, half round, and jumbo sizes. A few manufacturers have specialty bolsters, such as different angles and peaks. Some even have a "cut" bolster or a 3/4 round bolster that is designed to be similar to a full round bolster in height and shape, except with a flat bottom so it does not roll on the table and out of position. In typical form meets function style, the shape of the bolster is generally a direct reflection of its purpose and name. The most common bolster shapes are round and half round. Other shapes include rectangles, triangles, or some combination of all of the above shapes. The two most popular bolsters, round and half round, are generally used under the knees while the client is laid on their back or under the ankles while the client is on their stomach. This allows the massage therapist to keep the client comfortable in positions that would otherwise be uncomfortable. (In this respect, the headrest can be viewed as a bolster - it allows the head to be placed in a position that, if not for the headrest, would be quite uncomfortable.) For instance, a client laying on their stomach might be uncomfortable fully extending their feet, but a well placed bolster can support the ankles and avoid this problem, allowing the massage therapist to have optimal access to the legs. Derivations of the round bolster include the fluffy bolster, which is quite pliable and can be placed under the shoulder for some kinds of support. Another popular derivation is the neck bolster, which is the same diameter as a half round bolster but half as long. Round and full round bolsters each come in two sizes: Jumbo and Full. Of these four bolsters, the half round jumbo and the full round bolster are the most popular (and, not un-coincidentally, are the two "medium" sizes... the half round and the full round jumbo are a bit extreme in size.)


Bolsters commonly include straps that make them easier to carry and allow you to manipulate them - this would typically involve pulling them out from under clients. (Imagine trying to grab a bolster with oily hands and pull from under a firmly-placed client...) These straps are sewn into the seams of the bolsters but, if used roughly, can cause tearing. This isn't particularly attractive, so try to be as gentle as possible.

Bolster Covers

Bolster covers are available for every common bolster size, including full rounds, half rounds, and jumbo bolsters in either firm foam or what some people call soft or fluffy or contour bolsters. Should you use a bolster cover for your massage bolster pillows? Well, it depends. Do you use massage table sheets on your massage table? Because if you do the concept is the same. For some people a bolster cover is considered unnecessary because if you use massage oil and massage cream then the bolster cover gets full of it and you have to wash them. Whereas if you don't use a bolster cover you can just wipe the bolster down to clean it. On the other hand, a bolster cover makes the bolster feel softer, and warmer, in addition to preventing the skin from sticking to the vinyl. For those reasons some therapists prefer to use bolster covers and just wash them when they wash their massage table sheets.

How to clean your massage bolsters

Cleaning your massage bolster pillows is not complicated. Yet we have heard lots of different solutions and remedies, some good and some bad. Some people are worried about removing the massage oil residue. Some people are worried about killing germs and bacteria on the surface of the vinyl. And others are worried about cost and saving money on expensive cleaners. One thing everyone has in common about cleaning their massage bolsters is that they don't want to mess up the vinyl when they clean it by using hard chemicals. If you own a bolster made by one of the professional quality name brand manufacturers of massage therapy equipment, then you are in luck! Most manufacturers of professional grade massage therapy equipment have vinyl care guides on their website. We are talking brands like Earthlite, Oakworks, Stronglite, Pisces, Astra-lite, and Touch America. Name brands that have been in business for years, and well known for quality equipment with substantial warranties.

Article provided by Massage King and edited by Brian Leleux. For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Massage King at 800-290-3932. All rights reserved. Portions of this article may be used and re-posted only if full credit is given along with a "follow" link back to this article.

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