My Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

December 29, 2016

Article taken from American Pregnancy Association's website (www.americanpregnancy,org)

Massage and Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage

Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massage and pregnancy has often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding the safety and purpose of massage during pregnancy. Modern investigation and research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be a very instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration.

Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage. Before you schedule a massage appointment, make sure to ask about qualifications.


Massage and Pregnancy: Benefits of prenatal massage

Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health. Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body.

Swedish Massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.


Hormone regulation

Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”;) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression).

These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.


Reduction of swelling

Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.


Improvement of nerve pain

Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.


Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:

Reduced back pain

Reduced joint pain

Improved circulation

Reduced edema

Reduced muscle tension and headaches

Reduced stress and anxiety

Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles

Better sleep


Massage and Pregnancy: Precautions for prenatal massage?

As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.


Body position during prenatal massage

Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. Consult your massage therapist before your first appointment to verify what position they place their clients in during the massage.


Seek an appropriate massage therapist

It is important to seek care from a certified prenatal massage therapist. Certified therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage therapists and know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs. They are aware of how to position you safely and prevent strain to the uterine ligaments. They are also able to watch for symptoms of blood clots and varicose veins.


Women who have recently experienced bleeding, pre-term contractions, or have any of the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:

High risk pregnancy

Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)

Preeclampsia

Previous pre-term labor

Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden severe headaches

Recently gave birth


Pregnancy and Massage: Is prenatal massage safe throughout the entire pregnancy?

Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester because of the increased chance of miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Massage: Prenatal Massage as part of Prenatal Care

The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.


Last Updated: 01/2014

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.

Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.

Howell ,Julie, NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies. http://www.newlifejournal.com/decjan03/howell/01/03/full.shtml. Article accessed online 10/18/2007.

Things I don't care about vs. Things I do care about

April 2, 2017

From my experience, I have found that many clients seem to have the same concerns when getting on my table.  I thought it would be appropriate to address these concerns on a larger scale so you know where I stand on these topics.  This is not the complete list of concerns but they seem to be the most common things I hear.  I am separating this between 2 categories: Things that don't concern me at all and Things I do care about and want to know.  I hope this list helps to ease your mind a little when you are on my table, ready to get a massage.

Things I don't care about:

1. Body Hair: I don't think a day goes by without someone apologizing for not shaving or for having a lot of hair on their bodies.  I appreciate that you are very aware of this but it is not a big deal.  I probably didn't shave my legs either that day.  We are human.  I have a 2 year old.  I am happy that I get to wash my hair and wash my body before I am interrupted so shaving is not on the top of my list.  The great thing about massage is that I am using a lubricant: oil or cream, so hair doesn't affect how I do massage.  I am prepared for any amount of body hair.

2. Your breath: I think most people have a concern over this.  I try to alleviate this concern by having mints next to the chair where you leave your clothes.  I will be totally honest; I can't smell your breath.  I'm not trying to smell your breath.  I am focused on the massage (and more concerned that you smell mine).  I am not a science person but I think the way you are lying on the table stops your breath from moving in my direction.  It is not something I am specifically looking for so I never really notice.

3. Bodily Noises: I am specifically talking about 2 noises your body makes. 1. Your stomach.  It is actually a great thing to hear!  If your tummy rumbles during massage, that means your parasympathetic nervous system is activated.  This is the part of your Nervous system that deals with relaxation.  I hear a gurgle or two, it means I have done my job and I'm happy.  2. Gas.  Who hasn't had a slight panic attack when you feel one coming on in the middle of a massage? I know I have! I totally understand that it is embarrassing but it's happening and there is nothing you can do but let it out.  If you TRY to keep it in, all you do is tense up and I know something is wrong.  It's best to just let it happen.  I've said it before, many times; Better out than in.  I am more than likely pushing down on an area that will make it impossible for you to not let it out.  You can even warn me, if you like.  Apologize afterwards but I'd rather you just let it out.

4. Falling asleep/snoring: I'm not sure why people apologize for this.  You won't find too many people that are happy when someone falls asleep but that makes me proud.  It means you are comfortable with me.  You trust me.  That is a wonderful compliment in Massage Therapy.  Sleeping around a complete stranger can be very vulnerable to some and knowing that you feel safe enough to fall asleep makes my heart sing.  Snoring just adds to my joy. 

Things I do care about:

1. Recent and Past Medical History: This may seem like a no-brainer but there are several reasons that I need to know your medical history.  There are medications that I need to be careful with pressure.  If you have had surgeries, cancer, dislocated shoulders; these are medical conditions that require modifications.  I want you to get the most out of your massage and I certainly don't want to leave you with a negative memory.  Being honest about your medical history benefits us both.  We can work toward a common goal: a better quality of life for you!

2. Your comfort: This doesn't happen with every person but I find some people won't let me know if there is something that needs to be changed.  Whether it's music or the temperature of the room or my pressure, I can only fix it if you tell me.  The big one, Pressure, is most important because I want you to leave feeling good.  I don't want you to leave feeling like you just got hit by a train.  I have firm pressure!  Not everyone wants that.  You may think you do but in the moment you change your mind.  That is the perfect time to say, "Hold on Lady, lighten up the pressure!"  I totally will and I'll be so happy that you said something!

3. Talking vs. No Talking: Please don't feel obligated to talk to me.  This time is for you!  I know what I got myself into when I pursued this profession.  I may go the whole day without talking to anyone.  It's totally fine!  You can even tell me before we start that you would prefer silence.  I will talk only to ask if you are doing well and to tell you to turn over.  I am happy that you spoke up about your preferences.  My husband may not be thrilled with a quiet day because I will go home and talk his ear off but that was his fault when he married a Massage Therapist who loves to talk!  I do love talking and if you want to talk, I'm down for it.  I will usually let you wind down with some quick chitchat in the beginning but I'm taking my cues from you.  If you want to talk, we'll talk but if you want silence, there will be silence.

5. Your skin health: Skin health is very important to me.  I need to know if you have any known skin allergies (for obvious reasons) but there are other things going on with your skin that I need to know about.  Warts, Athlete's foot and other types of fungus are very important for me to be aware of because they are very contagious!  Remember that I work with my hands.  If I get a wart, I can't work or I'll have to wear gloves (which is very annoying because it is hard to find gloves that fit).  I am also on the lookout for any suspicious moles; especially on your back or feet (places you normally don't look at or can't see).  I am not diagnosing you in any way but I want to be sure that you are aware of them and should have a doctor monitor them for any changes.  It is not in any way to scare you but it is good for you to know.


I believe most Massage Therapists are with me on this.  I hope you feel more at ease at your next session.  It's good to remember that I am human too and feel the same feelings you do.  My job is to make you feel at ease in my presence.  I want you to feel comfortable being honest with me.  See you next time!

What is Fertility Massage?

April 2, 2017

There are many reasons a woman looking to have a child may seek out a fertility massage. Those using assistive reproductive technology use it to support their chances of successful implantation. Some women have been trying for years with no luck and are looking for alternative ways to conceive. Others are preparing to conceive and are working to become consciously aware in the process. Some women who are actively trying to conceive want the support of a trained therapist to open their body to the energy of conception.


As a Certified Fertility Massage Specialist, I follow a unique and effective massage protocol designed to enhance potential conception. The benefits of a fertility massage include the reduction of stress hormones, flushing the digestive system, stimulation of the reproductive system, emotional balancing and breaking up abdominal adhesions from previous surgeries or reproductive issues such as PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis.


The session begins with a relaxing castor oil pack applied to the abdominal area to cleanse the digestive system and possibly dissolve adhesions and cysts. Calming and centering craniosacral holds are then utilized, aiding in balancing and centering your energy while visualization techniques guide you to tune in and open the conception channel. A relaxing and therapeutic routine to shoulders and neck are next using a beautiful blend of essential oils to aid in relaxation, cleansing and hormone balancing. Compression holds follow along energy channels in the extremities to aid in removing any blockages of energy in the extremities. A specific reflexology routine for fertility is followed, stimulating reproductive areas, endocrine glands and the digestive system. Next, abdominal work to help flush the digestive system followed by deep, external pelvic work to break up adhesions and increase blood flow to your organs. You will then turn to lie on your abdomen and acupressure points on either side of your spine are stimulated to further open the channels of energy in your body. The low back/hip area is worked deeply to continue break up congestion and adhesions.


This routine is being used by many certified therapists with great success. You will go home with your own bottle of castor oil and fertility massage oil to utilize as often as possible and other educational material.


It is best not to receive this work when menstruating or possibly pregnant. There is also an optimal time in your menstrual cycle to do this work. Contacting me (757.553.4052)  before you schedule your appointment is a good idea so we can choose the right time. I also encourage spouses/partners to receive similar work as well or to schedule a couples workshop session so they can be a part of this process.


Trying to conceive can be a very stressful time in a couples’ life. Having a strong support system is important and taking time for relaxation and meditation can be a big help.

Why use a Castor oil pack to support Fertility health and Postpartum health?

April 2, 2017

Castor oil packs have been used for centuries to cure a myriad of problems from constipation to wound healing to pain relief but has lost some of its luster over the years due to advances in Western Medicine.  Fortunately, with the introduction of the internet and our over-saturated prescription medication market, people are starting to seek out alternative, more natural ways, to help heal what ails them especially when it comes to Fertility and Postpartum healing.

Castor oil is extracted from the seed of the Castor oil plant, whose botanical name is ricinus communis. And while it was Edgar Cayce who made Castor oil well known throughout the U.S. in the 20th century, it has a long history of use as a healing agent around the world. The Journal of Naturopathic Medicine published findings that Castor bean seeds, believed to be 4,000 years old, were found in many Egyptian tombs. Historical documents reveal the medicinal use of Castor oil in India, Africa, Greece, Rome (the Romans called it the Palma Christi - Hand of Christ), Egypt (for eye infections), China (for induction of childbirth and expulsion of the placenta), Persia (for epilepsy), Southern Europe, and the Americas.

Castor Oil packs can improve reproductive health by increasing circulation in the lower abdomen, boosting the immune system to clear stagnant fluid in the reproductive organs due to excessive scar tissue, promote detoxification of the liver (healthy liver, healthy body), reduces inflammation and pain (due to cysts, fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, etc.) and supports breast health ( What Your Breast Health Says About Your Fertility).  

Lastly, castor oil packs can offer stress relief.  We live chaotic lives and rarely give ourselves a moments rest.   I am guilty of this as well.  Not allowing our bodies time to rest can cause a multitude of problems, especially with our digestive system (think IBS).  Castor oil packs allow us to sit and rest.  It is best to allow the castor oil pack to stay on for 60-90 minutes Minimum and it is hard to walk around trying to do things with a castor oil pack on your abdomen.  This would be the perfect time for meditation, visualizations and positive affirmations.

Castor oil packs can be used 4-5 times a week. Materials needed for your at-home castor oil packs are:  cold-pressed, pure castor oil (can be found in health food stores), a flannel, cotton cloth, a towel (that you don't mind being stained; castor oil stains and is sticky!) and a gentle heating source (hot water bottle, heating pad etc.).  Saturate the flannel cloth in castor oil and place over the liver (liver should be done first.  Other areas include lower abdomen and breast).  Place the towel (you can also you plastic or saran wrap to cover the castor oil pack to keep it from getting all over) over the pack and then place your heat source over the towel. Then REST!  When you are removing the pack, be sure to clean off your abdomen.  Keep your flannel soaked castor oil pack in a ziploc bag.  It can be used more than once!

If you are using this to aid in fertility, abdominal massage can be a wonderful addition after removing the castor oil pack.  Ask your Massage Therapist if he/she offers castor oil packs with abdominal massage and add it to your massage session (or schedule one with me!). Other natural methods to aid in fertility are out there for you to try as well (See Fertility Cleansing)

Castor oil can be an effective tool in helping you heal from C-sections and to balance and help regulate the liver and other digestive organs as well as assist in balancing your hormones.  This can also, along with a massage, be very relaxing to you and Relaxed Mama = Relaxed Baby!

Should I cancel my massage if I'm sick

April 2, 2017

Short answer: Yes, please.


Long Answer: Yes, please.


Massage is great. You know this. But it’s not always a great idea.

As cold and flu season approaches again, it’s important that you know when it may be necessary to cancel your appointment.


Why?

When you are sick, your body needs rest. It’s strange to think about it this way, but receiving massage is an active task, it is not entirely rest. Massage causes change in the body, and your body has to work to maintain stability. Getting a massage when you are sick takes attention away from infection-fighting. That’s no good.    A lot of people think that it will help you get over it faster but it doesn't and can sometimes even make you feel worse.


You’re not going to be cozy on the massage table. Sure, it sounds like a warm squishy massage table would be great. But the moment you put your already-stuffy head into that face cradle, you’ll realize the error of your ways. Gravity and pressure are not your friend here. Even if I do a great face massage to drain your sinuses, you’ll likely feel worse when you get off the table.


You could get me sick. Since most of the common winter viruses are contagious even before symptoms show up, I could pass the cooties along to more clients before I even know it’s happening.  I also have a young daughter at home that I can also pass this off to and I really don't want her getting sick from me.


Further, when I get sick, I have to cancel clients and take a few days off work. I work for myself, with no paid sick days to compensate for lost wages. Sure, as a responsible business owner I have a fund for these situations. But I would rather use that fund for a cool toy for my daughter or a fun new tool for work. So I’m gonna try to stay germ-free this winter.


So it’s a deal. You’ll cancel so as not to infect me and my massage room, and I’ll do the same for you. We’ll keep each other safe.


When to cancel

If you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the past 24 hours, or are still feeling bad from a recent bout of such things.

If you’ve had a fever in the past 24 hours, or fever-related symptoms. This includes chills, aches, and fatigue. Even if you’re keeping the fever down with medicine, you’re still sick. The fever counts.

If you are itchy, runny, and/or sneezy, and you’re not 100% certain it’s seasonal allergies. And even then, allergies may leave you so miserable that the hour on my table would be wasted time and money for you.

If you are coughing constantly, or just a lot.

If someone in your household is ill and you are feeling at all bad, please cancel.


There is often some gray area here, especially if you are in the recovery phase of a virus or bacterial infection. If you’re unsure about your situation, please call me before your appointment and we can make a decision together.  I do not charge late or cancellation fees when you are sick.  I would rather you cancel then come in thinking that you are losing money if you don't.