Roughly 80% of women experience painful or uncomfortable periods at some stage in their life. Cramps can range from a mere nuisance to a painful distraction that can interrupt work, school, and relationships. Hormonal fluctuations can interfere with our productivity and mental balance, and recurring aches and pains can make it difficult to keep up with our daily routines.
I have regularly experienced all of these symptoms as well as other PMS symptoms like breakouts, anxiety, and fatigue. Like many women, over the years and through quite a bit of trial and error, I have discovered certain therapies that make my monthly cycle feel less like an annoying intruder and more like a welcome house guest. But it was because of an unusual circumstance that I realized just how important these comforts are to staying grounded and in good spirits.
I was camping at a music festival in Maryland when my period came unexpectedly early. What I had attributed to sleeping on the hard ground — lower back pain, moodiness, fatigue — turned out to be my period. I lamented that if I was back in my Brooklyn apartment, I’d have access to my arsenal of tricks to feel better: a warm bath, rose geranium essential oil, a heat pack, and a soothing cup of raspberry leaf tea.
More than anything though, I lamented the fact that I didn’t have the benefit of my monthly premenstrual massage. Since I became a licensed massage therapist 11 years ago, I have always received a massage right before my cycle starts to help with the cramps and persistent lower back pain that often accompany my period. It dawned on me that these treatments may provide a similar benefit to other women, and thus, the Moon Cycle Massage was born.
The ritual of the Moon Cycle Massage is a deeply therapeutic session to support women before and during their cycle. The intention of the massage is to help ease the cramps, pain, and tension associated with PMS and dysmenorrhea surrounding the monthly period.
While you may feel uncomfortable initially talking about your period, a good massage therapist should be receptive, knowledgeable, and supportive, making you feel entirely at ease.
In each of our three New York studios we begin these therapeutic sessions with a large heat pack of organic flax and lavender and apply it to the lower back and abdomen. This helps with the pain associated with cramps. Then we use a special blend of rose geranium massage oil to focus special attention on areas linked with stress — like the neck, shoulders, and deep lower back. This helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of the monthly cycle and allows clients to feel more grounded in their bodies. We then target special trigger points known for cramp relief, which, when pressed, create a constellation of ache far from the point being stimulated. (For example: a trigger point in your hip may be causing lower back pain, or a trigger point in the neck may be causing headaches.) Following the session, clients enjoy a cup of organic raspberry leaf tea for extra support.
The beauty of this kind of massage is that even if you don’t have access to a licensed massage therapist, you can still experience its benefits anywhere…
To give yourself relief from menstrual cramps in the comfort of your own home, I recommend starting the ritual by changing into loose, comfortable clothing. Begin with a heat application like a hot water bottle, a microwavable heat pack, or an electric heating pad (make sure the temperature is hot, but not hot enough to burn you). Apply the heat to wherever there are cramps or pain (typically the lower back and abdomen) and leave the heat on for several minutes. Next, try adding a few drops of rose geranium essential oil to a carrier oil (like sweet almond or grapeseed) and gently massage your lower abdomen, feet, and legs. Pay special attention to the pressure point on the inside of your ankle, which is known for bringing down energy.
When massaging yourself, use kneading or circular strokes, and focus your attention on feeling the tension in your body release and embracing what feels good. Fun fact: rose geranium has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its hormone balancing properties! Try stretching using Cat and Cow yoga poses, as well as Child’s Pose to give your lower back even more relief. And lastly, drink a cup or two of freshly brewed organic raspberry leaf tea, which contains a combination of fragarine (an alkaloid found in raspberries and polyphenols which is believed to help with cramps). Raspberry leaf also contains calcium and magnesium, which helps reduce spasms, and is an herb that has been used for centuries by midwives.
A monthly cycle doesn’t have to be a time of discomfort, but for many of us it poses a challenge to our mental and physical balance. Bringing attention to our bodies through massage is an effective and natural way to keep you feeling energized.
Rachel Beider is a business consultant, speaker, educator, licensed massage therapist, and the proud owner of Massage Outpost in Dumbo, Massage Greenpoint, and Massage Williamsburg. Her writing has been published in Forbes and Huffington Post, and she’s been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and the Wall St. Journal.
Photo credit: Elena Mudd.