One of my previous employers had a wellness program in the early 1990s which featured chair massages at a nominal rate for employees. I was one of the people who would regularly sign up for a session because I valued the sense of relaxation that followed the 15 minute rubdown. But one particular session changed the way that I viewed massage. While working on massaging one of my hands, the therapist pressed a particular area of my palm. “Ouch,” I exclaimed. “Why is that hurting?” The therapist noted that the area she was massaging corresponded to the intestinal tract in acupressure and reflexology. “Interesting,” I said, and didn’t think anymore about that pain…until early that evening when I came down with a bad case of the stomach flu.
That session made me realize how complicated the body really is and how alternative therapies can help a person get in touch with her body’s changes and needs. I began trying to schedule a monthly deep tissue massage because of its rejuvenating effects and also because – based on my earlier experience – it could help me diagnose what was going on in my body.
My massage therapist was open to answering questions as she worked on different parts of my body. I learned that right before the onset of a particularly heavy menstrual period, the area of my leg right along my shin bone would be really sore. By carefully using my fingers to put pressure along the shin bone, I could not only alleviate some of the soreness, but also some of the premenstrual symptoms that I would normally have. I also found that rolling a tennis ball under each foot released pressure points that correspond to the digestive tract, according to reflexology. And I learned from my massage therapist about trigger points that, when massaged, would allow me to renew my range of motion, particularly in one of my shoulder, during stressful times.
It turns out that therapeutic massage has its supporters in the medical profession, especially when it comes to dealing with menopause. “Therapeutic massage involving acupressure can bring relief from a wide range of menopause symptoms by placing finger pressure at the same meridian points on the body that are used in acupuncture. There are more than 80 different types of massage, including foot reflexology, Shiatsu massage, or Swedish massage, but they are all based on the idea that boosting the circulation of blood and lymph benefits health,” according to the website by Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine.
Massagetherapy.com provides a good list of what various bodywork techniques can do for you:
- Acupressure can be to stimulate various glands (adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, and parathyroid) in order to balance hormone production and reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Memory and concentration also can be improved through acupressure’s focus on the nervous system.
- Reflexology also focuses on the health of the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. In addition, this technique can be beneficial to the reproductive organs.
- Reiki, which is a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation and healing, is believed to balance the body’s systems, including hormone levels.
My current massage therapist always uses essential oils during massages, varying the oils based on her customer’s physical concerns and moods. I find that the smell of the oils continues to remind me of the benefits of the massage even after I’ve paid and left the building. A 2007 study found that aromatherapy massage potentially is an effective treatment for menopausal systems such as hot flashes, depression and pain. Researchers could not determine whether the positive effects were due to the aromatherapy the massage or both.
For some, getting a massage is a great treat. For others, it’s a necessity. I count myself in the second category, especially as I deal with the physical changes that have started happening in peri-menopause. I’ve found that having that time to focus on what is going on in my body with the assistance of the probing fingers of a massage therapist is priceless. I’d highly recommend it.
Published On: February 16, 2010