Pop! The sweet sound one of my patients noticed as she felt her uterus guide gently back into place, taking with it her back pain and period troubles. While I don’t practice Maya massage therapy myself, I noticed a complete resolution of the sacroiliac issue that this patient, herself an Osteopath, had been experiencing, following Maya massage. (Your sacroiliac joint is the part of your lower back indicated by the dimples above your bottom).
As a Chiropractor, this piqued my interest and sent me delving into the wonderful world of Maya massage therapy, and then visceral adjusting in general.
Maya Abdominal Massage Explained
Maya abdominal massage is a non-invasive, gentle technique where a therapist uses their hands to gently guide abdominal organs back into their proper place. We tend not to give too much thought to our organs and assume that they are just where they should be. However, just as trauma can alter the position of our vertebra or joints — sprained ankle, anyone? — injury, stress or hormonal imbalance may alter the position of our viscera (internal organs of the body.) And pregnancy can be particularly straining on the uterus.
Why is it important for the uterus to stay at an optimal position?
Our organs receive nutrients and remove toxins via our circulatory system. This is incredibly important. In Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), there is often increased inflammation in our pelvic area, which can cause congestion, pain and tissue thickening. While not confirmed by any double-blind studies I can find, it is reasonable to conclude that when an organ sits in a non-optimal position, this may alter the blood flow, and the capability of the organ to function and heal.
With a twist or turn of the uterus, one can imagine the increased strain placed both on it and the surrounding tissues. Check out the circulatory system for the female reproductive organs here.
As the Osteopathic philosophy states, structure governs function. The structure of something governs the way it works.
With this in mind, and the knowledge that massage can alter the make up of tissues, let’s look more at Maya massage.
How Does Maya Massage Therapy Help PCOS Patients?
According to ArvigoTherapy.com, symptoms of a displaced uterus may include:
- Painful or irregular periods; painful or irregular ovulation
- Dark or brown blood at the onset and at the end of menstruation
- Headache or migraine with period
- Varicose veins of the legs and/or tired, weak or numb legs
- Low backache; back pain with period
- More serious imbalances including: Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids, and Uterine Polyps
- Frequent urination; bladder infections, incontinence
- Recurrent vaginal infections
- Chronic miscarriages
- Difficulty getting pregnant/Infertility
- Painful intercourse
- Chronic constipation
- Difficult menopause
A number of these signs and symptoms are common in PCOS; painful or irregular periods, irregular ovulation, depression, chronic miscarriages. By getting the uterus back in its place, maya massage therapy can help with all these painful symptoms of PCOS.
Maya Improves Gut Health: Another common PCOS challenge
As a health professional with an intense interest and extensive experience with women with PCOS, I have no recollection of a patient with this syndrome who didn’t have digestive issues, also. A leaky gut, medically now known as increased intestinal permeability, and altered gut bugs (or microbiota) can increase the already relative estrogen dominance of PCOS. Therefore, improving gut function is a critical component of PCOS care.
Researcher, Marybetts Sinclair notes, “Abdominal massage can stimulate peristalsis, decrease colonic transit time, increase the frequency of bowel movements in constipated patients, and decrease the feelings of discomfort and pain that accompany it.” This means that Maya massage may have a role to play in normalizing the transit time for waste to move through the digestive system, and help improve our gut function. It may also be able to help reduce pain.
I know many women who will be most excited by this prospect!
Speaking of inflammation…
Dr. Jenny Cook has noted that inflammation may cause adhesions, including in the pelvic area. Adhesions, or fibrous bands between organs or tissues, can also occur following invasive procedures not uncommon in women with PCOS, including laparoscopic investigation and fertility treatments.
Major adhesions can be so strong they can only be removed through surgery. However, it is possible that maya massage therapy may reduce, even prevent, surgically induced, or other, adhesions.
Bove and Chappell performed an interesting experiment on some poor, unsuspecting rats. Now, while I am glad not to have been a rodent within their clutches, what they found may help women with PCOS. After surgery, massage therapy appeared to reduce the severity of adhesions and inflammation at the surgical site, and it may play a role in the prevention of adhesions as well.
Even better? There was no superwomen strength involved in the mobilization by the therapist. If you’ve ever had a remedial sports massage, your stomach will be relieved to hear this. I think I just heard it sigh! See the force needed to mobilize the abdominal organs, as with Maya massage, is gentle. It “… did not elicit flinching or biting [Although we’re talking about rodents here, I have almost been tempted to bite my remedial massage therapists strong hands, whilst crying at the same time!].
They also noted that the rats became calm during the treatment, and allowed deeper palpation and so more intensive treatment.
If we look back to how our nutrients flow into, and our waste products are removed from, our reproductive organs it makes sense that keeping the circulation and other highways free of twists and bends, blockages and dead-ends, would help our organs to function better.
Also, if we think about inflammation around the fallopian tube, and imagine an adhesive hook pulling it off track, it is not a huge jump to see how an egg might have trouble moving along it. And if the egg can’t move toward the uterus, and the sperm can’t move up to meet it, the romantic union required to spark a new life will be doomed to a failed liaison.
It’s an area I look forward to more research being conducted in.
Relaxation Effect Of Maya Massage Therapy
After all, if the beneficial aspects are good enough for research rodents, surely they are good enough for us?
The hormonal changes that occur in PCOS look stunningly like those that occur in stress:
- An increase in free hormones, such as testosterone, with a reduction in the sex-hormone binding globule (SHBG) that inhibits its effect, can lead to signs and symptoms like acne and excessive hair growth.
- The insulin resistance that, I believe should be tested for every woman suspected of having PCOS, is helpful short term in providing increased energy to fight off the proverbial saber tooth tiger. In the long term, it contributes to almost every PCOS sign and symptom, from infertility to weight gain, acne to hot flushes, mood swings to dark patches on the skin (called acanthosis nigricans).
- Reduced fertility. After all, if your mind believes you are in mortal peril, the body knows better than to divert its energy from life preserving functions toward baby making.
- Reduced gut function. As with the above, if your body and mind are stressed to the point where they think your life is on the line, digesting afternoon tea will not take precedence over survival.
It is imperative that women with PCOS do all they can to reduce the stress hormones coursing through their bodies, including massage.
Maya massage therapy may be one way to help you to reduce inflammation and adhesions, improve the function of both your body and mind, and allow you to enjoy the process!