There's nothing quite like the feeling of hands kneading away the knots in your back and feeling the stress melt away from your body. Massage relieves muscle tension, alters EEG activity, increases parasympathetic activity, and decreases cortisol levels. A massage can increase circulation and reduce swelling, which are magical words when you're pregnant. It can even improve the tone of your skin!
A good massage can leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed for the rest of your day. Despite rumors to the contrary, getting a massage during pregnancy is safe as long as you follow a few simple guidelines:
- Massage during the first three months of pregnancy can trigger dizziness and nausea, so wait until your second trimester for a prenatal massage.
- Avoid lying on your back after your fourth month. Your growing baby bump obviously becomes an issue for lying on your stomach. A trained and experienced prenatal massage therapist will use cushions and special tables to keep you comfortable while they work on you.
- Avoid deep tissue massage in your legs as pregnant women are particularly susceptible to blood clots.
- Check with your doctor before getting a massage, especially if you have any complicated conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
If you don’t have the time or resources to get a professional massage, no reason to deprive yourself of this stress reduction tool! In addition to asking a friend or family member to help you, you can even start by employing some simple self-massage techniques to work through your shoulders, neck, and feet.
If you really need to work through some stubborn knots but nobody is around to help you out, here there are also techniques for giving yourself a basic massage. Here are a few explained by Ruthie Ontiveros, LMT:
Massaging the head
Using your fingertips, gently press on your jawline, just below the ears. Using a circular motion, move fingers to the temples, then across the hairline, moving your fingers until they meet at the top of your forehead.
Massaging the neck
Place two or three fingers on the back of either side of the neck, where your neck meets the shoulders. Apply firm pressure and hold until you feel the muscles start to relax. Move your hand up the neck toward the head. Roll your shoulders forward and back. Repeat three times.
Massaging the shoulders
Place your left hand on top of your right shoulder. Squeeze the muscle and shrug your shoulder, release the pressure as you relax your shoulder. Apply firm pressure and move your fingers closer to your neck in a circular motion. Repeat on the left side with your right hand.
Massaging the feet
Using a tennis ball, place the ball on the floor under your foot. Roll the ball around your foot pausing on the tender areas. If you need more pressure, stand or use a firmer tool (golf ball or frozen water bottle).
If you find a willing friend or partner, they can help you by giving you a scalp massage, foot rub, or back and shoulders rub. For a seated back and shoulder massage, they should start by feeling for knots and rubbing over and around them with firm, even pressure. Follow this with long, broad strokes up and down your back using their palms. Then, with a knuckle or a thumb, they should press down on the knot and hold it until they feel the muscle relax.
Don't get discouraged if it doesn't release completely. Stubborn knots can take more than one massage to fix. Next they want to use light strokes to relax the tissues. Finish with how you started: long, broad, soothing strokes.
Massage is another great addition to your stress management toolkit. Check back tomorrow for our final stress reduction technique.