Can I Get A Chair Massage While Pregnant?
It is a common question that usually has the same simple answer: yes!
In most cases, getting any form of light-pressure massage while pregnant will produce only positive results. Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy reduces anxiety, decreases symptoms of depression, relieves muscle aches and joint pains, and improves labor and newborn health. (1.)
Some special circumstances, like a “high risk” pregnancy, could make getting a massage while pregnant ill-advised, and, in general, if there are any adverse health conditions that have become associated with the pregnancy, it is generally a good idea to consult with a doctor before receiving any kind of bodywork.
In the event of a pregnancy without any special circumstances, though, massage is actually recommended all throughout the child-bearing months!
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second or, technically, even the third trimester.
Many facilities will often refuse to offer massage to a pregnant woman who is in late stages of pregnancy, typically for liability reasons, which has created the public misconception that it might be unwise to get a late-term massage. This opinion opposes the facts, though, as chair massage is an acceptable practice at any point in the pregnancy process. (1.)
Mobile Chair Massage actually addresses many common discomforts associated with pregnancy and the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts.
Studies show that in pregnant women who receive regular massage, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (hormones associated with stress) are reduced, and dopamine and serotonin levels are increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). (2.)
These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight.
During pregnancy, the added weight of the growing fetus can sometimes cause reduced circulation and increased pressure on the surrounding blood vessels.This can in turn cause swelling of the joints, which is referred to as “Edema”. What Massage can do is stimulate the body tissues to reduce this collection of the edema-causing fluid, and encourage the flushing out the waste carried by the body’s lymphatic system. This greatly reduces the symptoms of edema in the joints. (3.)
A similar problem for pregnant women is Sciatic nerve pain. The sciatic nerve travels through the back side of our hips and provides nerve sensation to our lower extremities. When this nerve is impinged, or has pressure (like an unborn child) cutting off the nerve’s ability to transmit information, this can cause sensations of tingling or numbness in the legs and feet. Many times this is also caused by the muscles around the pelvic floor becoming inflamed or swelling and causing a similar impinging effect on the nerve that is passing by them. (3.) Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced a significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through the use of massage.
In a “Chair” Massage specifically, we typically use a special type of chair that has participants leaning the front of their bodies against the front of the chair, exposing their back and neck to be worked on/massaged. Given that many pregnant women’s bodies won’t allow for this, we alternatively use either a standard chair or have the client face the opposite direction when working, supporting the low back while leaving the upper back and neck open.
This change allows our therapists to work on primarily a prenatal client’s back, shoulders and neck when getting a mobile seated massage. Unless the Therapist is “prenatal certified” with additional educational courses in prenatal massage - which can be requested but not guaranteed at every event - this is likely the safest option for the client. That additional “prenatal certification” is typically used for advanced table massage work, though, and wouldn’t have much of an impact on a mobile chair massage session either way.
Thankfully, every massage therapist is required to learn the essentials of massaging prenatal clients prior to being licensed, so any licensed practitioner at least knows what special considerations need to be made when working with individuals that might be/are pregnant.
In reference to their continued health, it truly is important for pregnant women to get regular massage care to combat the aches and pains of the body adjusting, combat the back pains and muscle tension and headaches that can come as a result, and the poor sleep that is caused by all of the above.
The evidence strongly suggests there are many maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care, and the many first-hand accounts we have heard at on-site massage events only confirms that evidence!
And so, after considering all benefits listed above, if the question is “can I receive on-site chair massages while pregnant?”, the answer shouldn’t just be “yes,” it should probably be “why haven’t you already!?”
(1.) Howell ,Julie, NMT, PMT, (2002) Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies.
(2.) Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.
(3.) Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.