A face cradle is a specialized attachment for a massage table which is designed to accommodate someone's face while he or she lies stomach-down on the table. Face cradles are also sometimes attached to chairs and tables used in beauty treatments, to increase comfort. Many stores which sell massage supplies carry face cradles, and they are also typically packaged with new massage tables.
Typically, a face cradle is roughly u-shaped. It's made with a padded cushion attached to a rigid backing, with a pair of rods which are designed to be inserted into the massage table. The face cradle is typically adjustable, allowing the massage therapist to create a comfortable angle for the client's head, and the rods can also be adjusted to move the face cradle closer to or further away from the massage table. When the face cradle is not needed, it can be removed and set aside.
Usually, the face cradle is covered in vinyl, plastic, or another easily cleaned material. To reduce the risk of spreading disease or parasites, the face cradle is covered in a pillowcase or specially-fitted cover for each client. The cover can be removed and washed, along with the sheets used on the table, or it may be designed to be disposable in some facilities.
When a client lies on the table and puts his or her head into the face cradle, the padding supports the edge of the face, allowing the client to relax, and the hole in the middle allows the client to breathe freely. It is important for clients to tell the massage therapist if the angle of the neck feels awkward or uncomfortable, as a face cradle can strain the neck if not properly adjusted. Clients should also be aware that the face cradle can leave temporary marks around the face, just as sheets leave lines on the body after a night in bed.
The face cradle is generally not needed when clients lie face-up, because they are asked to slide down the table so that their heads are lying on the table. Usually, massage therapists remove the face cradle for this stage of the massage, so that it is not in the way when they work on the shoulders, upper chest, and face of the client. Clients may hear a faint rattling or rasping noise as the face cradle is removed.