The Challenges of Treating Obese Patients

The Challenges of Treating Obese Patients

The Challenges of Treating Obese Patients

Obese patients have far more strain on their bodies than those of average weight. The more weight a patient carries the more health issues they will have including chronic pain throughout their bodies, particularly in the joints and back. As well, those who are morbidly obese tend to lead a sedentary life which can lead to serious issues including edema, high blood pressure and issues with mobility and range of motion. All of these issues make obese patients ideal candidates for massage therapy. Because of their size, obese patients can present some particularly difficult challenges made even more complicated when you factor in your own size. Being prepared to treat obese patients and meet their particular needs will allow you to treat patients of all sizes.

Understanding and Communication

One of the most important aspects of dealing with obese patients is to understand it may have taken a great deal of effort for them to seek help. Obese people often avoid medical treatments as they know that their weight is an obvious health issue they are not willing to discuss. This can pose problems for healthcare providers who will naturally be inclined to comment on a patient’s weight and offer obvious advice such as the need to lose weight in order to better manage many health conditions. When treating obese patients it is important to remember your role as an RMT and avoid discussing things out of your area of expertise including diet and exercise. Instead focus on making your office a welcoming place for your obese patients concentrating on making them feel better. Many RMT’s find it easiest to avoid mentioning weight at all and treating obese patients in the same way they do all of their patients as far as communication is concerned.

Body Size Needs

Larger weight requires special considerations from larger sheets to cover the body more comfortably to wider tables and chairs. You also have to consider the physical challenges obese patients face including manoeuvring in smaller rooms. When treating obese patients it is therefore important to keep your room as open and safe for them as possible. Make sure you always have larger sheets on hand to accommodate larger clients. A step stool is also advisable as it is harder for larger patients to get up on the massage table.  Be certain you do not make comments such as “I will have to get a larger sheet.” Make accommodations without announcing them to your patient.

Body Mechanics

You may find it difficult to access your patient as their size will mean their body will be higher off the table than the average sized patient. You will have to lower the table as much as possible in order to apply the massage effectively. Some RMT’s discuss with their obese patients about lying on the floor using a matt for a more effective massage. However this can prove a challenge if the patient is unable to get down on the floor, or worse get back up again. A good alternative is to treat patients by having them in the side position and you can then sit in a chair. This will allow you to use the proper body mechanics you need and may prove the most comfortable for your patient.  It will also be safer in some cases as many obese patients have difficult breathing when in the supine position.

It may be difficult to decide which modality is best suited to larger patients. Swiss massage applied with a light touch and strokes will help warm up the body as well as reduce your chance of self injury.


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