Pregnancy - Massage for the Upper Body
Massage and touch have been an important part of both pregnancy and labour for women the world over and throughout the ages. However, more recently fear has become attached to massage during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is not an illness! If the pregnancy is progressing without problems and the mother is healthy, then massage should be safe and beneficial at a time when the expectant mother is experiencing stresses and strains on her body and emotions that may leave her nervous and stressed with sore feet and an aching back from carrying the baby, the shoulders tender and pulled forward in an attempt to carry enlarged breasts.
Medical opinion suggests that the benefits of massage in pregnancy include; a general reduction in stress and anxiety, pain relief during pregnancy and labour, and helping newborns to stay warm, feed and in preterm, gain weight.
There is still some controversy over whether massage should be carried out during the first trimester, so it may be that your client wishes to wait until the second trimester.
We know that one of the challenges pregnant women face is breast growth. Just six weeks into the pregnancy, many women's breasts have grown a full cup size or more. By nine months, the average woman has gained two pounds just in her breasts and that has an impact on the upper back. Unfortunately there is no one muscle responsible for holding breasts up but the pectoralis major, serratus anterior, external oblique, and rectus abdominis fascia are all responsible for supporting the breasts along with the Cooper’s Ligaments.
Strengthening the core muscles and the trapezius muscles can additionally help in supporting the breasts. If a woman has very large breasts it puts extra stress on the back extensor muscles and spinal discs, leading to muscle tension, spasm and pain. Women with a cup size bigger than a D can often suffer from a rolling forward of the shoulders to support the breasts and may also suffer from tingling in the arms from compressed nerves and pain from bra straps digging into the shoulders.
So, if in pregnancy the breasts are growing, we are putting more strain on a whole group of muscles that we are also using for moving our arms, bending, stretching, carrying – it’s no surprise that we will see in our practice pregnant women with shoulder and upper back pain.
We want to work all points into the shoulders, so it’s hands, arms and then into shoulders and upper back. This is demonstrated above in both the seated and side position so that you can see it twice. Hand massage on its own can be really therapeutic and even just doing this will start to release the shoulders too.