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Massage therapy is widely recognized as a way to decrease stress levels, relieve muscle tension, promote relaxation, support rehabilitation programs, and prevent injury.
A less commonly known benefit of massage therapy is in the treatment of various women's health issues, including irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual disorders, and difficulty conceiving.
Additionally, massage is an effective way to support a woman as her body changes throughout pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
Amanda Roth, who has been practising massage for nine years, was drawn to holistic health after exploring many other paths, including psychology and theatre production.
While neither were her true calling, she learned that she loved working with her hands and wanted to have a positive impact on others. She went on to complete diplomas in both acupuncture and massage, using her aspirations to benefit the holistic health community.
While filling her practice hours, Amanda saw many women who were experiencing difficult menopause, several of whom also had a history of irregular and painful menstrual cycles, poor postpartum healing, or menstrual disorders.
"The options these women were given to deal with their issues were to be medicated, have a hysterectomy or to just put up with it. I knew there needed to be a fourth option," says Amanda.
Amanda has dedicated her career to supporting women's health and fertility. She is committed to educating women on holistic approaches to health and healing.
She stresses that open and honest discussion about these options are the key to ending the mindset that the only relief from female-specific issues is through medication or surgery.
Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common issue women seek help for, and massage has been proven to relieve symptoms without the use of unnecessary medication. Massage therapy promotes blood circulation and lymph flow, which helps to restore hormonal balance and relieve abdominal bloating and swelling.
Massage also relaxes the body and releases endorphins, helping to reduce overall pain caused by PMS. Research has shown that women who suffer from PMS are more likely to have a difficult transition into menopause, and proactive treatment of PMS symptoms can reduce the risk of suffering later on.
Amanda also treats clients with more serious menstrual disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This disorder, characterized by severe emotional and behavioural changes connected to different phases of the menstrual cycle, is exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep.
Massage can help treat PMDD in the same way it helps with PMS, though those who suffer from PMDD need to focus more on self care and relaxation in order to manage their symptoms.
Trying to conceive can be a stressful time for a woman, and massage plays an important role in promoting relaxation and an overall sense of well-being, while also reducing stress.
Research has shown that stress hormones can negatively affect fertility, causing a condition called stress-induced reproductive dysfunction. This condition causes a disruption to hormone levels and effects normal menstruation, making conception very difficult.
Using massage as a stress reduction tool can help restore hormone balance and promote a normal cycle, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and prepare a positive environment for conception to occur.
Prenatal massage is a popular among expectant mothers. In the first two trimesters of pregnancy, massage is used mainly to promote relaxation and reduce stress. It is also an effective tool for teaching women self-calming and breathing techniques to hep them cope with labour and reduce anxiety.
In the third trimester, massage plays a vital role in preparing the body for birth. Massage can help relax the muscles around the reproductive organs, prepare the hips and pelvis for delivery, and promote optimal positioning of the fetus.
Optimal positioning is particularly important, as sitting all day can cause the baby to enter the pelvis in the posterior (facing the abdomen instead of the spine) position, which can delay labour and cause back pain.
"Women nearing birth need movement and exercise," explains Amanda. "Massage helps them both relax and prepare their bodies for labour, increasing the likelihood of a natural birth."
Creating awareness of the variety of benefits massage and other holistic health treatments can deliver is the key to ensuring women receive the right care to support their natural health.
Amanda stresses the importance that young women and teens know there is a holistic, supportive option for dealing with female-specific issues. Often the mainstream methods of dealing with these issues are just temporary, essentially covering up the problem instead of treating it.
"Once medication or birth control is stopped, the issue is still there," explains Amanda. "It wasn't fixed; it was hidden. The woman is left with the same issue and possibly even greater discomfort. Using massage and other holistic health treatments early on is essential in dealing with the root of the problem and promoting the long-term well-being of female clients."
Amanda Roth is a registered massage therapist with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada. She is also an Acupuncturist and a Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbologist. Amanda is a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM), sits on board of directors of the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada, and is a sessional instructor in the Acupuncture Program at MacEwan University.