Where To Put Arms?

Since this topic has come up a few times, I thought I’d address it here. It’s a burning question, I know.  🙂  Arms are a little awkward, though, and it’s worth offering a little guidance.

Richardson Massage Therapy room

You’re lying on the massage table, waiting for the massage therapist to come in. And you’re wondering…. Should I tuck my arms in under the sheet? Maybe I leave them outside the sheet? Or should I put them on my belly when I’m face up? Should I put them on top of the sheet but under the blanket? When I’m face down, should I hang them off the table? Should I put them over my head? Too many choices!

I don’t specifically address this with each client, but maybe I should. Because maybe clients don’t know.

Where To Put Arms

First and foremost, if you’re cold, put your arms under the sheet and blanket OR ask for the table heater to be turned up. Or both.

One of my goals during massage is to disturb folks as little as possible. I will, however, have to pull an arm outside the blanket/sheet to work on it. When a client’s arms are outside the sheet/blanket, it is right there and easy to work on. But then when it is time to roll over to face downward, it is easier to have arms under the sheet and it also ensures modesty, so I tuck arms under regardless of how they started out. If that makes sense.

As for when you are face down, put your arms wherever they are comfortable. You can feel free to re-position your arms while I’m working. Some clients put them by their heads on the face cradle. Others hang them off the table at a 90 degree angle from their bodies. Some hang them off the front of the table. Some put them by their sides on the table. When I get a massage, I prefer to leave them by my side on the table. 

If I need the arm in a particular position to work on the shoulder, I will move it. So you should do what is comfortable for you.


A couple of caveats – you don’t want your arms to fall off the table as you are relaxing. That is really startling to your nervous system. If your arms don’t fit very well on the table, it might be better for you to hang them off the side of the table. Or when face up, you might want to put them on your belly. Please feel free to experiment.

One thing that doesn’t work is to lie on them when you are face down. If you lie on your arms, my work on your back will put pressure on your arms and will be really uncomfortable. If you need some support while face down, I have some towels you can roll up and place on your abdomen or upper chest.

I hope that you now know where to put your arms during Swedish massage! The main point is that I want you to be comfortable and that there is really no right or wrong position for your arms (except the lying on them part).

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