During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.

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Reduced stress. Swedish massages are meant to maximize relaxation—you’ll be on a massage table, in a peaceful environment, with a professional spending an extended time (between 60 – 120 minutes) giving you a massage. The combination of the hands-on attention and the environment should relax you, lowering the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Lowering your stress level offers a surprising number of additional benefits, including reducing or eliminating tension headaches, giving you more energy, and allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.

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A more recent study looked more at the physical benefits of massage.  This study was done with 400 adults who complained of moderate to severe low back pain, lasting 3 or more months. These adults were divided into 3 groups. The first group received a weekly full body massage. The second group received a more targeted massage that focused on specific muscles of the low back and hips. The final group did not receive massage, but instead were prescribed pain medication and muscle relaxants.  After 10 weeks, participants in both massage groups reported a greater average improvement in pain and functioning than those who received medication. The type of massage, either full-body or focused, yielded equally beneficial results.  At the end of the study, 36-39% of the massage recipients reported that the pain was nearly or completely gone, while in the medicated group only 4% reported that significant decrease in pain level. This bodes well for not only focused but also a full Swedish “relaxation” massage.
Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.[80] Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance.[81] Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling,[82] blocking nociception (gate control theory),[83] activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis[84] or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.[10][85]

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“Good pain” is at the heart of the pressure question: a strange, potent sensory paradox that many people actually seek out as the goal of therapy, consciously or unconciously. Either it isn’t literally painful (just intense), or it’s painful but desired anyway because of relief or belief: an actual biological relief or at least the belief that there is one. But it’s important to note that not all satisfying, relieving sensations are genuinely helpful (e.g. scratching a mosquito bite).

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Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It is a free-flowing and gliding movement towards the heart, tracing the contours of the body using the palm of one or both hands. Oil is applied with this stroke to begin the first stage of massage. The therapist applies a light or medium constant pressure. This stroke is used to warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm the nerves, improve blood circulation and heart function, and improve lymphatic drainage.

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