Massage therapy is a form of alternative medicine, which means significant medical studies have not necessarily been performed on treatment effectiveness or safety in the pregnant population. Massage is thought to increase blood flow, decrease stress and relieve muscle tension. At least 80 different types of massage are currently used, including deep tissue massage. Due to varying training methods and experience levels, deep tissue massage is generally contraindicated in pregnancy, though there are some aspects of deep massage that can be integrated into a safe pregnancy massage.
What is a Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage integrates strong pressure and long strokes to relieve tension in deeper muscle tissues. Massage therapists warn that the massage could cause pain for one to two days after the massage. Pressure points may be used as focal points during the deep tissue massage depending on the particular reason for scheduling the appointment. For instance, lower back pain deep tissue massage therapy may be different than leg pain deep tissue massage.
What do Massage Therapists Say About Deep Tissue Massage During Pregnancy?
There are professional massage therapists on both sides of the debate. Some therapists believe deep tissue massage is completely safe as long as the therapists understand the areas of the body to avoid during pregnancy. Few will perform a deep tissue massage or other form of massage during the first trimester.
Avoiding Certain Areas During Deep Tissue Massage
The National Institutes of Health has reported numerous benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy. Prenatal massage (with a trained professional) is believed to be completely safe and useful for the treatment of swelling, tension, pain and stress. Pressure points associated with pelvic muscles should be avoided at all stages of pregnancy. These pressure points are located in the wrists, hands and ankles. It is also important to skip leg deep tissue massage during pregnancy due to possible blood clots. Risk of blood clots increases during pregnancy and leg deep tissue massage may dislodge a blood clot leading to serious health risk.
Medical Approval Needed – Why?
Some massage therapists will require a note from the obstetrician stating deep tissue massage is safe during your stage of pregnancy. This note assures the therapist there are no medical contraindications in your personal pregnancy that could be an issue during or after a deep tissue massage. Women considered high-risk, with a history of preeclampsia or preterm delivery or have issues with swelling, headaches or morning sickness should not have a deep tissue massage at any point in the pregnancy.