The Art of Draping: An Essential Skill for Massage Therapists

In the field of massage therapy, the art of draping is an essential skill to harness. Mindful, efficient massage draping is an important for practicing massage therapy — and for students, preparing for a physical exam that will test your skills. 

What is draping? Massage therapists use special techniques to cover the body with a sheet or drape while working on various parts of the body, protecting a client’s modesty. Draping allows the client to remain covered and warm while still receiving therapy. 

An experienced massage therapist ensures that draping will be smooth and seamless and won’t interrupt the flow of the massage. While draping, it is important to ensure that the patient is draped appropriately at all times. The main priorities of massage draping are informed consent, never exposing a client, and always communicating to explain what you’re going to do—before you do it

During the massage, only the body part that the therapist is working on is uncovered, focussing on one body part at a time. 

By keeping these key concepts of draping in mind, practitioners can focus on their craft with a relaxed patient, get better results, and improve their practice.

The basic aspects of massage draping discussed are shared in greater detail and demonstration in our Massage Draping online course. With this course, participants can become confident in their draping practice to successfully relax the patient, and focus more freely on their therapy.

Here are some recommendations for confident draping, where a client’s comfort is top priority:

Abdomen Draping

Appropriately draping the abdomen can be a bit tricky, as the goal is to open up that area for treatment while completely avoiding either top or bottom exposure. Abdominal draping applies to both male and female clients.

TIP – if you’re going into board exams, you will need to know how to breast drape a male client.

Groin Draping

With draping of the groin completed appropriately, you can access the muscle structures of the leg and hip without exposure. If you need to do further movement while using this draping, you can involve the client, asking them to hold the top part of the draping, so they can control the tightness of the drape in the inguinal area. It is important to learn draping through the groin and quadriceps muscle. You need to be able to drape high enough to work the origin of the adductor. Always make sure to keep the patient informed and make sure they are comfortable.

Pregnancy Draping

Pregnant clients have specific issues and symptoms that therapists have the necessary knowledge to treat. This allows them to improve their quality of life during this time, and make their pregnancy journey more comfortable. However, for obvious reasons, draping a pregnant client can offer some added challenges.

All procedures that you normally follow when treating a client are especially true during pregnancy. Always communicate with them and make sure they are comfortable at all times. Communicate what you’re going to do before you do it, and always make sure that they feel safe and secure in each draping before you proceed on to treatment.

Male Draping

Learning how to securely drape a male client is an important part of treatment for any potential sprains in the groin area, where you may need access to the adductor and inguinal area. This provides for the treatment of pectineus, adductor longus and the quadriceps, and this particular draping style is helpful in facilitating that.

Before you begin treatment, you want to make sure your client knows exactly what you’re going to do before you do it. Your instructions to the client need to be very clear and direct, so they understand what the goal is. Let them know that, because they have a potential groin sprain, you’re going to be draping up high to the top of the hip. Make sure that they’re okay with that, and get consent from the client before continuing.

Female patient with breast massage draping

Breast Draping

When working with female patients, a thorough knowledge of secure breast draping techniques can greatly increase their comfort and relaxation during treatment. It’s an important part of your relationship with your client and allows you to build long-term positive relationships. Breast draping can be a bit trickier than other techniques to master, but it can be quite effective in allowing you to treat chest, rib, or sternum pain.

See our great set of resources for Massage Therapists!

Prohealthsys offers many ways to best support you while you level-up your practice. Whether you are a student or a practitioner, we have the resources and products you need to excel. 

To dig deeper and excel faster, book a one-on-one consulting session with Dr. Nikita Vizniak!

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