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  • What Should I Do With My Arms During a Massage?

    Person with arms at their side getting a massage

    “What should I do with my arms?” is one of the most frequently asked questions during a massage. So if you’ve ever wondered, but not asked, where you should put your arms, today you’ll get your answer.

    In general, you’ll get the best results if we’re massaging you while your muscles are in a neutral position. But what does that mean? It means they’re at rest, neither contracted nor lengthened.

    When You’re Face Up

    When you’re lying on your back (i.e. face up), most of your muscles are in a position of rest when your arms are by your side. However, if the table is too narrow for that to be comfortable, you can place them on your chest or belly. If your hands are cold, you could tuck them under your glutes (aka your butt) to warm them up.

    In general, if your arms aren’t where your therapist needs or wants them, they will either move them, as they do when they’re about to begin massaging them, or ask you to move them if they’re affecting some other area.

    When You’re Face Down

    The same principles apply when you’re lying on your stomach. Having your arms at your side is best. There are a few issues unique to this position, though.

    With your arms at your side, your hands tend to be in the way when your therapist is working your upper hamstrings and the sides of your hips. Tucking your hands under your pelvis or legs, will keep them out of the way. They will also tend to fall off the table more when you’re face down, so this tucking maneuver will fix that problem as well.

    If you’re really not comfortable with your arms by your side, you can hang them off the sides or end of the table, but that changes the position of the shoulder blades, which means that some muscles are contracted and some are lengthened. While your therapist is working on your legs and hips, this definitely will keep your hands out of the way and won’t impact what they’re doing. However, when they’re working on your upper back, you’ll want to put them by your side and tuck, if needed, to put your upper back and shoulder muscles in a neutral position.


    Arms by your side is best. If you’re uncomfortable or they don’t fit because the table is too narrow for you, put them on your belly or chest, or tuck them under your hips. If your shoulders or back aren’t being worked on, you can hang them off the the top or sides of the table.