Mary, a Hormonology newsletter subscriber, asks: “What part of my cycle would it most beneficial to get a massage? Can it help offset PMS? Or will you get more out of it when you are able to relax more?”
My answer: I think the week you choose for a massage is really based on what you want out of it. Here’s what I recommend:
Week 1: Ease menstrual pain
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
Research shows that gentle abdominal and pelvic massage can help ease the pain of menstrual cramps. What’s more, a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that the aroma of fragrant essential oils can also help reduce cramp discomfort, possibly by nixing stress and inducing relaxation.
Week 2: Rein in anxiety
Day 8 to Day 13
High estrogen and testosterone can make some women feel antsy, anxious or stressed by ratcheting up your energy level to cycle-long highs, so massage can help bring you to a calmer place during this tense phase.
Week 3: Total enjoyment
Day 14 (or ovulation) to Day 22
If you want to thoroughly enjoy the indulgence of a massage and use it as an almost transcendent experience, Week 3’s sedating progesterone can help you achieve that by slowing you down and allowing you to focus on the massage therapist’s technique, the calming music and deliciously-scented oil aromas.
Week 4: PMS relief
Day 23 to the end of your cycle
If you’re bothered by premenstrual symptoms—such as irritability or the blues— massage can provide a potent mood boost by prompting the release of feel-good brain chemicals. However, with a Week 4 massage, I caution against any type of massage technique that could be potentially painful (such as deep tissue or hot stones) and to ask the massage therapist to take a gentle approach since plunging estrogen makes you more sensitive to discomfort. Of course, everyone’s pain threshold is different, so if you can stand the firm touch or heat during this extra-sensitive phase, go for it!