One study from the University of Miami found that women who had massages before their periods had relief from "anxiety, depressed mood, and pain immediately."
I must admit, when I learned that a massage studio was offering a service called the Moon Cycle Massage for women with P.M.S. or on their periods, I was skeptical.
My period makes me cranky enough as is, I thought, and a gimmicky massage—or something invasively focused on my pelvic area—would only make me feel worse. On all counts, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Rachel Beider, owner of Massage Williamsburg in New York and its sister location, Massage Greenpoint, which both offer the new service, developed the idea for a menstrual massage during a camping trip. She noticed she was feeling crampy and lethargic, which she attributed to skipping her usual pre-period massage and rituals due to the trip.
“For years, I had been scheduling a massage for myself about two days before my period, when I’m feeling most tender and grouchy. It makes me feel so much better to do that and to have my special heat pack, tea, and aromatherapy that I use to self-soothe,” says Beider, who in addition to being a certified massage therapist has also worked as doula and aromatherapist. That was when she realized that the treatments she was doing for herself could also help other women feel better during that time of the month.
“When I first came up with it, I was shocked that no one else was offering it,” Beider says. “As women, we spend years of our lives menstruating, and so many of us are affected by dysmenorrhea or period pain, and cramps, and yet, as a society it’s something we rarely talk about.”
During her years as a licensed massage therapist (L.M.T.), she had seen many women asking for help with P.M.S. symptoms—but they would usually wait until they were already on the massage table to bring it up, and many of them didn’t seem very comfortable talking about it. Putting a period massage on the menu would sidestep some of that awkwardness, Beider realized.
Plus, there is some research to back up Beider's claims. One study from the University of Miami found that women who had massages before their periods had relief from "anxiety, depressed mood, and pain immediately."
PUTTING THE PERIOD MASSAGE TO THE TEST
I typically get pretty severe P.M.S., emotionally, as well as bloating, cramps, nausea, lethargy, brain fog, and pain in my lower back. I told all of these things to my L.M.T., Amey, who took them into account and then tailored the experience specifically to what I had said. I was given raspberry leaf tea (which Amey said might help with my cramps), and a 10-pound weighted heat pack pillow filled with flaxseed and lavender was warmed and then placed on my lower back while Amey first focused on acupressure points on my limbs, neck, and upper back. It was instantly soothing and calming to have both the warmed heat pack relieving the tension and cramps in my lower body, while the acupressure made me feel less bloated, foggy, and sad.
Amey also used rose geranium essential oil during my massage, which I had never smelled before and I immediately asked what it was, because it was so light, pleasant, soothing, and almost citrusy. Apparently, it's an essential oil that is supposed to help with hormone and mood regulation. I liked the refreshing and lightly floral/citrus smell of it so much, that I ordered some as soon as I got home. Beider says you can even grow rose geraniums in window boxes to release the therapeutic benefits into your home and carry some of the scent with you by brushing them with your fingers. I found the smell so soothing that come spring, I just might try it.
By the time that Amey got to my lower back and abdomen, where I feel the most pain during and before my period, the entire area was relaxed from the weighted heat pack, making the massage feel even more powerful at dispelling cramps and pain.
I left my massage feeling thoroughly blissed out and lighter, and I could tell that I was less bloated and retaining less water, too. I went straight from the studio to a dinner and movie date and had a great time, something that would usually be off limits for me at the height of P.M.S. I even found smelling the rose geranium for the rest of the night comforting.
I felt so much better and lighter for the rest of my cycle, that, finances permitting (the one-hour massage is $130, and you can upgrade to 90 minutes for $185), I’m going to follow Beider’s example and schedule a monthly massage two days before my period starts, when I’m at peak P.M.S.
Link: Girl Smarts: 'I got a menstrual massage—Here's what happened'