Did you know that menopause brings bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes to 80-85% of women? Moreover, as the AMTA has recently highlighted, 75% of women are interested in non-hormonal treatments for menopause symptoms. Read on to discover how massage can help ease menopause symptoms.
What is Menopause?
Menopause occurs for many women in their fifties, as their bodies transition out of the childbearing years. The three stages of menopause are:
- Perimenopause, which occurs in the years prior to full menopause, and is defined by erratic periods and decreased hormone production.
- Menopause, the second phase, when periods stop completely, and many women experience the full range of symptoms, as the body’s mix of hormones are changing greatly. This second phase may last from two to ten years, with most women averaging around five years.
- Postmenopause is the final stage, when all hormonal changes have taken effect. During this time, women are at increased risk of osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Shifting away from reproduction looks different in each body. Some women sail through the transition fairly easily, while others experience a barrage of symptoms, some of which are listed below.
Common Menopause Symptoms
Hot flashes are the most common and well known menopause symptom. For some, a hot flash will feel like a slight increase in body temperature, while others will experience intense heat, a flushed face, extensive sweating, and even disorientation. Other menopause symptoms include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Night sweats
- Skin changes
- Vaginal changes
- Memory loss
- Soreness in back, neck , and shoulders
Due to menopausal changes, particularly decreased estrogen, more serious effects may occur, including bone loss, heart disease, and glaucoma.
Treating Menopause Symptoms: How Massage Can Help
Traditionally, many women rely on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for relieving menopause symptoms. Studies have shown that HRT can reduce bone loss and the risk of fractures, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, large-scale studies also suggest that HRT may increase the risk of stroke, blood clots, cancer, and heart disease, depending on age, type of hormone replacement therapy, and health history. Indeed, HRT is contraindicated for those with a history of breast cancer. To minimize risk, doctors suggest that women take the lowest possible dose of HRT to relieve their symptoms.
Here’s where massage therapy can help. Stress generally intensifies menopause symptoms. Women moving through the transition need plenty of time to rest. Massage is a wonderful way to relax, reducing both symptoms and the need for HRT.
Massage Modalities for Menopause
Swedish massage is commonly requested by women experiencing menopause, as this modality is deeply relaxing. Myofascial and deep tissue work may also serve menopausal women well. At the same time, some women find they are especially sensitive to touch during menopause; energy work may be a better option for them.
Some LMTs recommend acupressure during menopause. This approach can stimulate the adrenal, thyroid, parathyroid, and pituitary glands to better regulate hormone production, and thereby minimize hot flashes. Acupressure can also move energy (chi) to the nervous system, for improved focus and memory. Plus, acupressure can bring balance to the reproductive organs.
Finally, aromatherapy massage may be an effective way to reduce symptoms. A Tehran University of Medical Sciences massage study of 251 women in menopause found that massage decreased symptoms. The study split participants into three groups: a control group that did not receive massage, a placebo group that received massage with only liquid paraffin, and a group that received aromatherapy massage. The blend of essential oils used in the study included lavender, rose geranium, rose, and rosemary, diluted with almond oil and mixed with evening primrose oil. Both massage groups both saw significant decrease in symptoms, while the control group saw no change. The aromatherapy saw a slightly larger decrease in symptoms over the paraffin massage group.
Benefits of Massage for Women in Menopause
- Headache relief
- Tension release
- Increased range of motion
- Improved connection to the body, increasing ownership in the process, and rather than a sense of powerless victimhood.
- Activation of the relaxation response, for less frequent hot flashes. Research from Harvard Medical School’s Women’s Health Services department found that techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, such as deep breathing and massage, can be effective ways to regulate menopause symptoms.
- Reduced insomnia.
Massage can help women honor the changes of menopause. Like many health conditions, menopause symptoms will likely benefit from a broad palette of self-care habits, including proper nutrition, yoga, exercise, aromatherapy, and more. With effort, each woman can discover the best treatment combination for her symptoms.
For the best results, we recommend scheduling regular massages. It is too easy to sacrifice self-care in the face of hectic day-to-day life. To facilitate consistent treatment, our Massage Clinic allows you to book massages weeks in advance. Of course, if something comes up you can change or cancel your appointment with at least 24 hours notice. For your ease of mind, and for everyone’s health, we follow strict COVID-19 protocols. We invite you to book your relaxation time now at ourmassageclinic.com.
If you would like to help those experiencing the menopause transition, we encourage you to check out our school of massage. Portland massage therapist careers of all varieties have launched from our COMTA-accredited program. Our admissions team can help you determine if East West College of the Healing Arts is the best massage school for you. For more information, visit our massage school admissions page, or call us at 503-233-6500.