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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Pregnancy Massage: differences?

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I was recently asked what was different about a pregnancy massage to a 'normal' remedial massage. Well, the simple answer is, at first glance, not much; but there are a number of key differences which make it a markedly different treatment.

You use (on the whole) the same techniques, treat the client with the same respect, and can gain amazing results with such things as reducing joint pressure due to tight muscles, decreasing swelling and water retention and improving blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. A massage during pregnancy can help alleviate some of the stress and strain that the body is subjected to because of hormonal and postural changes (posture and the changes occurring during pregnancy will feature as a separate blog due to the volume of information I can write!). For the mum-to-be, this can mean better sleep (who doesn't want to sleep peacefully), relief from sciatica and a tremendous emotional boost (an important factor not to be underestimated).

The musculoskeletal and hormonal changes which a woman's body experiences while pregnant are not to be underestimated. The extra weight gained to accommodate pregnancy can put immense pressure on joints leading to back, shoulder and neck ache. Having good anatomy and physiological knowledge means that I can assess what muscles need working on. Knowing that the hormone relaxin is active during pregnancy is also vital; it affects collagen fibres (those in ligaments and tendons) by increasing the water content and elastic properties of those structures. This is entirely natural, it's the body's way of preparing for giving birth by allowing extra movement in joints which normally have very little movement, specifically around the birth canal. But what it also means is that other joints in the body are at risk of becoming lax. As a therapist I'm aware of this and adapt my treatments accordingly to give the client a safe treatment.

The same contraindications (reasons to modify or not massage) apply to pregnant clients. However, there are other important issues to be aware of, and this is the reason why a thorough consultation needs to be carried out prior to any treatment. In some cases I won't massage a client without permission from a GP – the best interests of the client's (and baby) health are paramount. Some issues that immediately spring to mind are gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, bleeding, history of miscarriage, name a few.

It's true that pregnancy is a complicated process involving many of the systems in the body (and all of these are interlinked via the systems in the body. Here's where good anatomy & physiology knowledge and awareness of possible complications make the difference between a good and a not so good therapist (or a potentially dangerous one). With good training and continual research therapists are able to offer excellent treatments to pregnant ladies at this wonderfully special time.

So, after all that's been said, why should you receive a massage while pregnant? My belief is that it is immensely beneficial both from a physical and psychological perspective. With a knowledgeable therapist you will be well looked after and the treatment will be designed to your needs – be that relaxation or relief from specific aches and pains. A bond, a trusting relationship will build with regular treatments where the focus is on time for the mum-to-be to adjust and relax; all important factors at such a precious and nurturing time.


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