Treating Stress and Symptoms of Menopause with Massage Therapy

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 2, 2010

Are you overwhelmed with the stresses that have accompanied menopause? Does stress seem to be amplified now that you’re in your prime menopausal years? Menopause brings about physiological, psychological and social changes that may be extremely trying on your health, mind, body and soul.

Stresses can contribute to a myriad of health problems including cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, psychiatric diagnoses (depression, anxiety, panic disorders, etc.), malignancies and gastrointestinal tract and dermatological problems. Different forms of therapies may help to control your menopause symptoms and stress in order to avoid these health conditions.

Think beyond the mainstream, traditional treatments for your stress and menopause symptoms. Think beyond the politics surrounding the descriptors “traditional” and “alternative”. If a gray area exists between the two, massage therapy certainly falls into this category. The number of benefits associated with massage therapy has increased over the past several years. Massage can reduce stress, relieve menopausal symptoms and boost circulation of blood while promoting general relaxation.

Massage therapy for menopause symptoms? How?

Massage therapy concentrates on the body’s soft tissues (the muscles, tendons and ligaments). Massage therapists use their hands to manipulate these areas to detect and treat patients for a variety of physical and emotional problems. Mechanical action and reflex action are two aspects of massage therapy.

Mechanical action refers to the movements created by moving the muscles and soft tissues of the body by using pressure and stretching. Acids and deposits are cleansed through the various body systems by breaking up fibrous tissue and loosening stiff joints. Swedish massage and deep tissue massage are among a few types of therapies that focus on mechanical action that can alleviate menopause symptoms.

When one part of the body is affecting another part of the body, massage therapists use reflex action to treat complaints. The body is connected by nerve pathways and a flow of energy called “meridians”. These points correlate to particular organs or energy pathways in the body that can be stimulated to produce some of the body’s natural hormones and painkillers. Massage therapists can target these points allowing them to treat other symptoms located elsewhere in the body. Acupressure (a gentle, non-invasive form of acupuncture) focuses on specific points that may be causing menopausal symptoms.

Just as acupuncture uses “meridian points” on the body to alleviate symptoms, many types of massage therapies are based on the same method. Meridian points are also called “acupoints”. They are specific locations on the body that are believed to be therapeutically useful for acupuncture or massage therapy. For example, a massage therapist can stimulate the adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands in an attempt to balance hormone production to reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Shiatsu and trigger point therapy are popular types of massage therapy that are based on the idea of “reflex action”.

Types of massage therapy for menopause

There are over 150 different types of massage therapy that range in pressures from superficial to deep. Many of types of these therapies are quite useful for managing stress and promoting relaxation that can ease menopausal symptoms. Some techniques that are commonly used to treat women going through menopause include the following:

Myofascial release
Poor posture, physical injury illness and emotional stress can force the body out of alignment and cause the “fascia” to become restricted causing an amplification of menopausal symptoms. Fascia is the connective tissue layer that surrounds the muscles, bones and joints that provides support and protection. Myofascial release is a technique that stretches the fascia in order to release restriction and restore tissue.
Swedish massage
A type of therapeutic massage that focuses on increasing circulation and promoting relaxation. This type of massage is the most common form in the United States. Swedish massage uses gliding and kneading strokes with oils and lotions to relax the client and release stress. Reducing stress can lessen a lot of menopause changes.
Shiatsu
This type of massage is a good way to focus energies on wide range of symptoms. By focusing on meridians, Shiatsu stimulates circulation and flow of blood and lymphatic fluid to release toxins and deep seated tensions in muscles. Shiatsu also stimulates the hormonal system that can benefit menopausal problems.

Other body work techniques that are popular to treat the symptoms of menopause are:

Reflexology
Similar to shiatsu and acupressure, reflexology concentrates on reflex points located on the ears, hands and feet. For menopause discomfort, this type of therapy can focus at the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. A controlled clinical study of thirty-eight women with premenstrual syndrome examined the effects of a thirty-minute reflexology treatment weekly for eight weeks. Those receiving the treatment were treated by ear, hand, and foot reflexology. Those in the control group were given placebo or sham reflexology. Based on a daily diary that monitored the severity of thirty eight premenstrual symptoms, the treated group had a 46% reduction, which was a significantly greater reduction than the 19% reduction of the controlled group.
Reiki
Reiki can relieve menopause conditions by balancing the human energy system in the entire body that can balance hormonal levels. A Reiki practitioner places his or her hands in various patterns on the body that create a heat that can be felt by the client. It is designed to treat the major organs of the body. Relief can be felt immediately or over a short period of time (a few weeks). It has been observed that reiki has lessened the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.

Seeking help through massage therapy

Find a trained, licensed and qualified massage therapist. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) requires professional members to have a demonstrated level of skill, knowledge and ensure a minimum education and training standard. A national locator service is provided by the AMTA or by calling 888-843-2682.

When you finally find a massage therapist that fits your needs, the AMTA provides a list of massage tips for consumers:

Consumers should consider the following tips to help them find a massage therapist who is trained and qualified.

  • Are you licensed to practice massage? (35 states have passed legislation to regulate massage therapy)
  • Are you a member of the American Massage Therapy Association?
  • Are you Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork?

What should someone expect during a massage?

  • The massage therapist will ask questions about what prompted you to get a massage.
  • The massage therapist will want background information about your physical condition, medical history, lifestyle, stress levels and painful areas.
  • The massage therapist will ask what you health goals are and will discuss how massage may help you achieve those goals.
  • During a one-on-one massage, you will be asked to remove clothing to your level of comfort.

Stress may be an unavoidable consequence of life but there are ways to maintain a healthy level of stress throughout your menopausal years. Managing the pressures associated with menopause may seem like a daunting task especially when you suffer from “stress overload”. Our July, 2004 issue of The Menopause Minute gives some tips on managing and reducing stress.

REFERENCES

Amer
ican Massage Therapy Association

Howell, P., 2005, “The Natural Menopause”, Reiki Reflex

“Myofascial Release Therapy”, 2000, Wholehealth MD

Osborn, K., 2004, “Easing the Menopausal Journey”, Life Span

“Shiatsu”

Webb, K., “Reiki: Relief for Menopausal Symptoms”, Menopause Online

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne

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