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To glute or not to glute… that is the question

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Body modesty is always an issue, given that our clients quite literally bare all when they are in our care.  This can lead to a question for some therapists around the matter of whether a typical massage session should include work on the glutes (a.k.a. the muscles of your hiney).’

This group, which includes Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, and Gluteus Minimus, are actually some of the hardest-working muscles in the body. They connect all the work that the legs do, and they also connect to the lower back muscles. For those of us who are sitting a lot, or even people who are athletic and run, the whole hip area can often use a good working over, and the glutes certainly benefit tremendously from massage.

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of franchised chains and spas, therapists are often instructed to skip working directly on the glutes, so as to avoid even the possibility of an awkward situation, especially if there is a gender issue involved, such as a male therapist working on a female client, or vice versa.  When such a major muscle group like the glutes is not even a consideration, it often means that the client won’t get the full therapeutic benefit of the session.

If you are ever concerned about your work on someone’s glutes being misinterpreted as anything inappropriate, rather than avoiding the area, simply converse with the client. Explain that these are very hard-working muscles that would benefit from this work, and ask the client if it would be ok to work on the gluteal area. Sometimes the client will say that they don’t need any work there, and sometimes they’ll greatly appreciate it. Either way, asking is better than just skipping. If you are still uneasy about working in that regions, ways to carefully respect someone’s modesty when working on their glutes could include:

  • Starting out working through the sheet or blanket, with just a gentle tracing around the greater trochanter
  • Using a shiatsu-style rocking technique through the sheet or blanket
  • Still working through a sheet or a blanket and applying pressure or twisting action with your knuckles

When working directly on the skin, taking care to use careful draping, crossing the sheet over their glutes and tucking it securely under their leg and torso.

Most importantly, remember that what the client receives from the massage in the end is your intent. If your intent is purely therapeutic, even if the client is a little shy in the beginning, by the end of the massage, they will know that the only thing that you ever meant to do was to help them feel better.

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