Massage During Pregnancy?

massage chairs and pregnancy

Many think of massage as a luxury to be indulged in only on occasion. What determines a luxury depends on many factors, some cultural, some financial, and often these are very subjective. But one of the most beneficial times for massage may be during pregnancy.

A study at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage, including therapy provided by massage chairs, might have multiple health benefits, both physiological and psychological.

These benefits from massage therapy include:

  • Lowered anxiety
  • Decreased back and leg pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Decreased levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine

For depressed women, researchers in another study of pregnancy massage found:

  • Increased levels of the “feel-good” hormones serotonin and dopamine
  • Decreased levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress
  • An overall improvement in mood

But is massage safe? The short answer is “Yes,” but there are some things to consider. During pregnancy, blood volume increases dramatically —by as much as 50%. At the same time, blood flow to the legs often becomes sluggish. Levels of natural anticoagulants in the blood, there to prevent hemorrhaging during delivery, naturally rise. These circulatory changes which occur to protect both the fetus and mother ironically put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh.

Use of strong pressure could dislodge a blood clot. Some types of leg massage are therefore contraindicated during pregnancy. These include deep-tissue massage, deep acupressure, shiatsu, cross-fiber friction, and percussive tapping. To be safe, avoid deep massage and strong pressure on the legs. Instead, choose very light, slow strokes on the legs. Also, all leg massage strokes should move toward the heart. These safety requirements are consistent with techniques provided by premium massage chairs.

As with any medical treatment, it is best to seek professional advice. In later pregnancy, many women are most comfortable lying on their sides, too, which would preclude the use of a massage chair. So ask your doctor. But don’t deny yourself ease, comfort, and health benefits because you think a premium massage chair treatment is “only a luxury.”

Of course, you should always check with your Dr. before getting a massage chair. He may suggest that it’s a good idea as long as only kneading or rolling techniques are utilized and no tapping, knocking, or pushing is incorporated.

Some massage chairs don’t allow for kneading only functions, of course, all the massage chairs offered here provide that customization. Your Dr. may also suggest a chair with a lighter touch like the Positive Posture Brio+, OCHO R.6 or the D.Core Stratus.

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“Pregnancy Massage.” Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, WebMD,