Truths and Myths Surrounding Prenatal Massage.

One of the most rewarding parts of working with specialized populations such as expectant moms, is dispelling common myths about what type of massage is and is not appropriate for them. In many of my lectures about prenatal work, my first comment to the therapists in my class is, “Pregnant women are not sick! It’s Ok to touch them!” This opening line stems from the hundreds of comments I have received from prenatal clients expressing frustration with the timid, fearful touch they have received in previous prenatal massage experiences. While caution is absolutely necessary in working with prenatal clients in particular, I find that my prenatal clients are not nearly as fragile as most textbooks and teachers make them out to be. Especially our female athletes. In fact, a woman’s activity level before and during pregnancy is a great indicator of what kind of intensity is appropriate during her session. Here is a short list of some considerations for expectant moms and how therapists can work with them.

1.) One of the big concerns with pregnant women is their propensity for blood clots. There is a possibility of a therapist dislodging a clot and that can cause other complications. But in women who are more active, their blood is already being circulated more aggressively, so that risk is minimized. Also by using slower techniques, the therapist can deliver effective work without putting their client at any increased risk.

2.) Another factor to consider during pregnancy is the little extra elasticity present in tissue created by the presence of a hormone called relaxin. Again, if a women was not very active or strong before pregnancy, this could be minor cause for concern as any aggressive manipulation could cause instability in her joints. But in the instance of our athletes who were probably lacking a little bit in flexibility before pregnancy, this risk is very minimal.

3.) One of my absolute favorites that I hear about often is the potential to induce labor by massaging the feet or other acupressure points in the body. At Loosen Up we have been offering what we call an “induction massage” where if the mom is at least 38 weeks along and has no complications, we will put a little extra focus on activating the points and reflexology zones associated with inducing labor. We have had some moms go into labor shortly after leaving our facility but many women don’t go into labor for another day or two or some even still need to be induced. So while many therapists are very apprehensive around these areas, even with intense focus on these points, rarely do women go into labor from working on them.

So many women are participating in advanced level competitive sports now and our previously-held notions of women as these “delicate flowers” who should just rest and stay indoors need to be crushed. The health benefits of activity and a good massage greatly outweigh the minimal risks. The bottom line is that every person and every pregnancy is different and women should be encouraged to explore what works best for them and their families and not be told that they should be fearful of what feels appropriate for them.

Benefits of Massage for Muscle Recovery & Reducing Inflammation

man massageMassage as a non-drug therapy has a promising potential to not only help athletes with weary muscles, but also people with chronic conditions related to inflammation, like muscular dystrophy or arthritis. These results are based on a study by Justin Crane, a doctoral student at the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University.

Although massage is already an accepted form of therapy to relieve pain and muscle strain, researchers found that massage can also trigger the biochemical sensors, which are responsible in sending signals to muscle cells that can reduce inflammation.

Massage sends a signal to muscles to create more mitochondria, which is the the cell’s power center and has a vital role in healing.

Crane said that nobody has ever tried to look inside the human muscle and find out what is going on during a massage, including the biochemical effects.

He added that their study showed how the muscles senses when they are being stretched and reduces the cells’ inflammatory response. As a result, massage could be helpful to hasten recovery from injury.

Crane further stated that researchers in McMaster were the first to test the effect of manual therapy such as massage, with the use of muscle biopsy to prove that massage can reduce inflammation, which is a primary factor in numerous chronic diseases.
This particular research came out in the Science Translational Medicine’s February 2012 issue which has involved the participation of eleven men in their twenties as subjects of their study.