Lunar Cycle Massage
At Rising Earth Healing Arts we honor women during her moontime. Moontime for women is an often overlooked and undervalued period of a woman’s lunar cycle. Modern western medical approaches often misdiagnose and treat many of the symptoms a woman experiences during her moontime in ways that actually bring a woman further from her deepest healing and nourishment.
The most common symptoms of moontime for women are womb and abdominal cramping, lower back pain, fatigue, loss or increased appetite, dips in emotional wellbeing. These symptoms are a signal from your body as it is in the process of shedding and releasing physically and emotionally. The emotional components are rarely addressed as painkillers and birth control methods are most commonly introduced as an easy fix all though these can contribute to a numbing of emotional processing, increased digestive issues and further abdominal discomfort.
Fun fact: The scientific term for menstrual cramps, dysmenorrhea, derives from an ancient Greek expression which literally means “difficult monthly flow.”
What if there was an even better, healthier way of relieving painful period cramps and other symptoms – one that didn’t rely on the use of harmful drugs?
Lunar Cycle massage is not a new technique for menstrual pain relief. It has been used for thousands of years by midwives, medicine women and lay healers (hands on healing). Unfortunately many to most women are not granted permission to seek or have had interventions such as this available to them through modern western medical care. Not only is massage more pleasant and relaxing than traditional approaches to managing extreme menstrual pain, it also reduces the burden placed on the digestive system by painkillers and brings a women into a deeper relationship with her moon cycle and her physical and emotional self.
During menstruation, the blood supply to the uterus and surrounding areas of the abdomen are almost entirely cut off, resulting in painful period cramps and muscle pains. Blood supply is not only important for the heart and brain, as blood flow to the muscles is necessary to supply key nutrients and oxygen.
A lack of oxygen and key electrolytes in the muscles is also common cause of painful menstrual cramps. Improving the circulation in these hard-to-reach spots is both an easy way to improve overall health and recovery, and reduce cramping and pain in the muscles surrounding the uterus.
With increased blood flow comes increased oxygen supply to the cells in the region being massaged. Oxygen deprivation of tissues in our bodies is one of the major causes of pain, cramping, dizziness and the feeling of tiredness. This oxygen deficiency, known as hypoxia, can also cause serious long-term degradation in the tissues of the muscles and organs concerned. For this reason, it is important to ensure that circulation is maintained during menstruation.
Massage also acts to speed up the flow of oxytocin which plays a major role in muscle relaxation. Frequent contractions of the uterus happen during menstruation and are a major player in the creation of the extreme menstrual pain and the painful menstrual cramps many of us experience. This is the same feeling that occurs when you perform prolonged intense exercise: lactic acid builds up in the muscles and causes pain and soreness. The faster the delivery of the oxytocin hormone, the greater its relaxing effect to relieve muscle spasms and contractions.
We all know the traditional technique of using a hot water bottle when painful period cramps hit. Massage can also make use of the relationship between heat/warmth and pain reduction, as it leads to the production of heat in, on, and around the areas being massaged. Essential oils, like lavender and frankincense can even be warmed before use, improving the effectiveness of massage as a heat therapy.
The heat released through these techniques contributes to an overall warming and relaxation of the muscle, improving the delivery of nutrients and further reducing cramping.
Specific approaches can also help with the control of bleeding. Techniques such as warm compress, abdominal clockwise massage, and lower back massage, using the right essential oils are known to affect the quantity and pacing of bleeding during menstruation.
Psychological Benefits of Menstrual Massage
Massage is a great way to improve your mood and psychological health. I noted the importance of oxytocin above. This endorphin is associated with feelings of love, comfort and relaxation, and supports the relaxation of muscles themselves. Massage is also believed to activate the release of opioids from the brain. These natural painkillers reduce cramping in the areas being massaged and combat general feelings of discomfort.
Increased serotonin and endorphin release is another feature of the lunar cycle massage. Serotonin and endorphin are the brain’s “happy,” mood-balancing, stress-reducing, pain-relieving hormones. These are the same body chemicals used in drugs such as antidepressants. Massage activates this portion of our nervous system and causes the release of these pain-relieving hormones, improving mood, and combating menstrual cramps.
In addition to improving the circulation of endorphins and painkillers, studies have shown that massage is effective in the reduction of salivary cortisol. Cortisol is a stress-inducing hormone in the body that is linked to the suppression of the immune system, an increase in inflammation and the development of many mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Its reduction leads to a decrease in irritability, depression and increases the overall positive balance of an individual’s mood.
The benefits of the lunar cycle massage could even be as simple as providing a distraction from extreme period pain. Whether your chosen technique is self-massage, massage by a professional, friend/partner, the consistent rhythmic short sharp sensations can distract you from painful period cramps and other symptoms.
Other benefits of the lunar cycle massage can include the promotion of sleep, relief of bloating associated with periods, relief of indigestion and stomach gas. These add up to a significant difference when they are experienced simultaneously.
There are many critics who suggest that these techniques are not as effective as clinical interventions like medication and painkillers. These people seem to have missed the point, however – women are reporting improved quality of life in spite of period pain. There is no real difference between experiencing less pain and being in less pain: if it makes you feel better, for whatever reason, this is a great reason to use lunar cycle massage – especially when clinical interventions are unreliable in their effect and tend to cause painful digestive problems.