As a busy woman, you might know all too well how chaotic life can be — whether you’re managing a household, working full-time, or juggling all of the above. And that’s on top of the hormonal shifts and other physical symptoms that can come with female reproductive health.
Being a woman comes with a unique set of challenges, which means it’s essential to look after your body and mind. Luckily, you can get some much-needed TLC by adding massage to your routine.
Below, learn about the benefits of massage therapy for women’s health, plus a few easy ways to get started.
The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Women’s Health
You’ve probably heard that massage can boost blood flow, relax muscles, and even improve mental health. But some of its effects can have a direct positive impact on women and people with menstrual cycles.
When it comes to female health, here are nine of massage’s top benefits to know about:
Eases PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (or PMS) refers to the disruptive symptoms that can happen in the week or two before menstruation.
In this phase of your monthly cycle, hormonal shifts can lead to a range of health-related troubles. These include anxiety, moodiness, cramps, and even headaches. And these symptoms aren’t uncommon. In fact, as many as three in four women will report experiencing PMS symptoms each month.
The good news is that massage therapy can help soothe your body and mind during PMS week. It does this by:
- Increasing mood-boosting brain chemicals
- Relieving stress and anxiety
- Reducing cramps and other pains associated with hormonal changes
Reduces Physical Signs of Stress
Stress can affect any of us, but research has found a stress gap between men and women. On average, women report higher levels of stress than men, and are more likely to experience physical symptoms — like nausea or headaches — because of it.
Fortunately, self-care in the form of massage can help. Massage eases stress by releasing endorphins and soothing the sympathetic nervous system (aka your fight-or-flight system.)
Not only does this feel good, but it can reduce physical symptoms of stress. By putting your body in “relaxation mode,” it can potentially:
- Slow your heart rate
- Calm your breathing
- Decrease stress hormones
- Temporarily reduce blood pressure
Relieves Period Cramps
You might’ve heard that massage can relieve pain, but did you know it can also help with menstrual cramps?
One study found that massage reduced dysmenorrhea (the medical term for cramps) in women with endometriosis. And in a 2015 study, aromatherapy massage was even more helpful than regular self-massage for soothing period pain.
Research still hasn’t pinpointed exactly how massage eases pain, but it may happen as a result of relaxation and decreased muscle tension. Some experts even theorize that massage can interrupt the flow of pain-signaling from the nerves to the brain.
With all this in mind, a gentle self-massage may be worth trying the next time you experience period pain.
Improves Well-Being During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a beautiful experience, but creating a whole human being can be hard on your body. For this reason, some women choose to get regular prenatal massages to boost their health.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, this type of massage can aid in:
- Decreasing back and leg pain
- Relieving pain post-surgery
- Improving mood and easing depression
- Combating insomnia
Prenatal massage is typically performed by specially-trained therapists who are certified to work with pregnant clients. This means they have the know-how and experience to perform the techniques safely. They may also be skilled in targeting common problems, such as lower back, leg, and hip pain.
Supports Postpartum Health
Postpartum massage is a wonderful way to relax after the psychological and physical changes that come with giving birth. And in a time when many mothers are focused on caring for their new little one, it can be a vital form of self-care.
Postpartum massage is typically performed in the first three months after birth, and it offers plenty of health benefits for new mothers. Many women report that it helps them de-stress while they adjust to significant new life changes. Plus, it may:
- Support healthy circulation
- Reduce swelling after birth
- Alleviate muscle tension
- Enhance emotional well-being
Improves Quality of Life with Certain Conditions
When it comes to female health, it’s essential to recognize the impact that chronic medical conditions can have. Some conditions that often affect women and people with cycles include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Anxiety disorders
Many of these conditions come with chronic muscle pain or emotional challenges. And sometimes, this can make maintaining a good quality of life feel like an uphill battle.
Fortunately, massage therapy for women’s health can help. It eases certain types of chronic pain, decreases stress, improves emotional health, and promotes deeper rest. And together, these effects can make for better overall well-being.
(Note: If you have a chronic condition and want to try massage therapy, be sure to talk with your doctor before getting started.)
Boosts Well-Being for Older Women
Regardless of gender, massage is a great way to boost your health as you age. It reduces aches and pains, helps you relax, and can even offer a sense of human connection. But did you know it can provide specific benefits for older women?
For example, it’s been shown to help with menopause, one of the main changes women experience with age. This hormonal shift comes with symptoms like sweats, aches and pains, and sleep problems. One 2012 study showed that massage — and specifically, aromatherapy massage — helped women find some relief from their menopause symptoms.
On top of that, massage may also help older women living with certain conditions. For example, it can relieve pain from arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems that come with older age.
Aids in Deep, Restful Sleep
Every human being struggles with sleep from time to time. But did you know that women are much more likely to suffer from insomnia than men?
We don’t fully know why this happens — but it may be due to the higher stress loads and hormonal changes that women face. With this in mind, women with sleep problems may greatly benefit from a soothing massage session. Because it reduces stress and releases calming endorphins in the body, it can make falling (and staying) asleep much easier.
(Note: If your main goal of massage is to combat insomnia and sleep better, a bedtime self-massage routine can help. Here’s a guide to help you get started.)
Supports a Fit and Healthy Lifestyle
If you’re a woman who loves to run, hike, or hit the gym, chances are you’re no stranger to sore muscles. Fortunately, massage can be a powerful way to improve your recovery regimen. It works by:
- Stimulating the muscle tissue
- Boosting nutrient-rich blood flow
- Reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Supporting flexibility and range of motion
All in all, these benefits can make massage an excellent addition to any fitness routine.
Best Types of Massage for Women’s Health
If you want to try massage therapy for women’s health but aren’t sure where to start, you’re not alone. There are many types of massage out there, and it can be tricky to know which one is right for you.
To help start your journey, here are some popular massage types to try, along with their benefits and how they work:
Swedish massage is a go-to option for newcomers in the massage world, and for good reason. It’s a relatively gentle form of whole-body massage that involves light, long strokes. This modality is best if your main concern is relaxing and unwinding from day-to-day stress.
Reflexology massage involves a blend of classic massage and reflexology — a Chinese practice that uses pressure points on the feet to support energy flow and overall health. Many women find that this modality helps them relieve stress, muscle pain, headaches, and more.
Aromatherapy massage can include techniques from various massage types, including Swedish, deep tissue, and trigger point therapy. The difference is that it involves essential oils — such as lavender, eucalyptus, or peppermint — which can bring additional therapeutic benefits.
To try aromatherapy at home, you can infuse essential oils into your self-massage routine. But when you’re headed to the spa for some much-needed relaxation, you can also ask the receptionist to upgrade your session with aromatherapy. Most spas offer this service and will be happy to accommodate.
4 Ways to Try Massage for Women’s Health at Home
Ready to try massage therapy for women’s health, but don’t want to visit a masseuse each week? Here are some of the best ways to self-massage at home:
For an Active Lifestyle: Try a Massage Gun
Contrary to what many people may think, massage guns aren’t only for male athletes. They’re also great for women who hit the gym, do yoga, or simply lead busy lives.
Here’s how you could use a mini massage gun to combat soreness and promote recovery after a workout:
- Standing or sitting comfortably, set your massage gun to its gentlest setting.
- For a few seconds, glide the massage gun at a slight angle along the muscles you used during your workout. This quick warm-up increases blood flow and prepares your body for deeper work.
- Increase the speed to your desired setting.
- Spend 30 seconds to two minutes on each muscle group, being careful not to overwork any area.
For Pure Relaxation and Better Sleep: Try Home Foot Massage
Whether you’re a busy mom or are feeling overwhelmed at work, a home foot massage may be just what you need to relax and relieve stress.
One easy way to get started is to use an oscillating foot massager for the lower legs and feet. For example, a quick bedtime routine using the MedMassager MMF07 can work wonders when you need to reset your mind and body.
Here’s how to begin:
- Turn your massager on to a gentle setting.
- Rest your feet on the vibrating surface for a minute or two to warm them up.
- Increase the massage intensity and continue for a few more minutes.
- Optionally, you can flip the massager around for a few minutes of calf muscle massage.
- Lay back and let the massager work for up to 15 minutes.
- Repeat up to several times a day for maximum stress relief.
For Stress-Induced Knots: Try a Massage Ball
If you’re like many women, your everyday stress might manifest as tight muscles in the shoulders and upper back. This can lead to stiffness, pain, and unruly trigger points (or knots) in hard-to-reach places.
Thankfully, a massage ball can help you find relief. Here are the simple steps to getting started:
- Take a few moments to feel around your upper back and shoulders for tender points. If you carry a lot of stress, it’s common to find knots in your upper trapezius muscles.
- Once you’ve located a trigger point, place the massage ball between that muscle and a sturdy wall.
- Then, lean back into it with the amount of pressure that feels best to you. You can roll back and forth here, but you don’t have to. Thirty seconds to two minutes of steady pressure is often all you need for the knot to release.
To Relieve Menstrual Cramps: Try Abdominal Massage
Along with your usual home remedies, a simple abdominal massage can help you soothe period pain and discomfort.
(Note: This massage can help when your cramps are a direct result of your menstrual cycle. If they’re a secondary symptom of a condition like endometriosis or uterine fibroids, be sure to work with your doctor to treat and manage your pain.)
Here are the steps:
- Lie down in a comfortable position with your back and head slightly elevated on a pillow.
- With your hands resting on the area with the most pain, take a few deep breaths to relax into the massage. As you do so, mindfully let go of any stress and allow your muscles to fully relax.
- Begin by rubbing your hands in circular motions across the lower abdomen. Optionally, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil here to enhance the massage.
- Start with light pressure to begin. Then, move to more moderate pressure after a minute or two.
- Use sweeping, side-to-side motions to massage the lower belly for a few more minutes. If you feel comfortable enough, you can use slightly deeper pressure here.
- Continue to use different pressures and motions for up to ten minutes, in whichever ways feel best to you.
Are There Any Risks of Massage Therapy?
In general, massage therapy is a safe and soothing self-care tool. But in rare cases, women and people with cycles may not be a good fit for it.
With that in mind, here are times when it’s best to delay massage and talk to your healthcare team first:
- You’re currently pregnant. Prenatal massage can be wonderfully soothing, but it may not be recommended for pregnant women with certain health issues. For example, your doctor might advise against it if you have preeclampsia or high blood pressure.
- You have any medical conditions that you aren’t sure about. Massage can have adverse effects on people with certain conditions. These include skin conditions, blood clotting disorders, varicose veins, and more. Fortunately, a quick conversation with your doctor can help determine whether massage is safe for you.
- You’re dealing with a recent, acute injury. A good massage can help with achy muscles and joints, but it can worsen acutely inflamed injuries — such as broken bones or fresh muscle strains.
The Takeaway on Massage and Women’s Health
Massage can support female health through every stage of life — whether you’re dealing with hormonal shifts, are a new mom, or simply getting older. This natural therapy can ease PMS pains, combat sleep problems, and help you fight stress. And all of these benefits make it a valuable tool for any woman to keep in her self-care kit.
Before starting, it’s important to check with your doctor to make sure massage therapy is right for you. Once you’ve got the okay, you can begin your new self-care routine however you’d like — whether that’s with a monthly spa visit or daily self-massage.
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