What Is Breast Health Massage?
Breast Health Massage is a therapeutic treatment that helps maintain healthy breast tissue and assists in restoring health to tissues that have been neglected, damaged, or have suffered from disease. It does this by improving the circulation of blood and lymph in the breast. These actions bring nutrient filled blood to the area and drain away congested lymph that is full of toxins.
When and Where Was Breast Health Massage Developed?
Breast Health Massage is a relatively new technique in massage therapy. Its development has come about over the last two to three decades as we have become more aware of breast health and how to care for our breasts.
Part of the push to develop Breast Health Massage techniques have stemmed from the increased scientific research into breast health. Women have been looking for ways in which they can proactively care for their breasts in order to keep them healthy. Breast Health Massage
Women who have had breast reductions, enhancements, mastectomies, or reconstructive surgery often suffer from painful adhesions which can be reduced or eliminated through Breast Health Massage. This is often combined with Scar Tissue Massage technique which directly addresses scars left from surgery.
It is important to note that in Western culture, breasts are closely tied to sexuality; however, this has nothing to do with Breast Health Massage. Breasts are a part of the body, just like our eyes and our teeth, and they need regular checkups and maintenance to keep them healthy. Breast Health Massage is exactly that and nothing more. Licensed Massage Therapists can receive special Continuing Education training in Breast Health maintenance techniques and should be able to produce credentials to this effect.
Pressure and Technique in Breast Health Massage
Breast Health Massage draws from a number of massage modalities to accomplish several specific goals. The predominant form of massage used is Lymphatic Massage which helps to circulate lymph in the breast tissue which is the main way that toxins are removed from the breast. Lymphatic massage is the lightest form of massage and is extremely soothing.
Myofascial Massage techniques are also used in Breast Health Massage. Fascia is the web-like fibrous material that you have seen if you have ever peeled the skin off of a chicken. Fascia is found throughout our bodies and holds us together. Oftentimes, fascia becomes stuck to itself and does not allow for regular movement of the things around it. These types of restrictions can cut off proper circulation and be uncomfortable.
The first part of the word “myofascial,” “myo-,“ means muscle. In Myofascial Massage, muscles are also massaged to help reduce tension or restore tone if they are too relaxed. Myofascial pressure is generally light to medium and should be comfortable for most people.
Scar Tissue Massage is a third technique used in Breast Health Massage. Many women (and some men) have surgery in this area which leaves scar tissue. By utilizing Scar Tissue Massage techniques, the scars can be reduced in size and their texture can improve so that they are less noticeable. Scar Tissue Massage is a gentle technique that seeks to improve the flexibility of the scar without causing any inflammation. Although there may be some tugging felt as adhesions are stretched, the objective is to be gentle so discomfort should be minimal to none.
Why Breast Health Massage Works
Breasts are made up of fat and glandular tissues capable of producing milk. They are nourished by the circulatory system (arteries and veins) and their fluid balance is maintained by lymphatic tissue which also removes waste. They are held onto the chest by a series of ligaments.
Breast Health Massage moves blood and lymph in and out of the breast, bringing fresh blood containing nutrients to its tissues and removing waste by causing lymph to flow. Lymph moves just under the skin and bras restrict the flow of lymph. Since most women wear bras and they have an elastic band and often an underwire, lymph flow is usually cut off from the breast for many hours at a time. The backup of this fluid causes stagnation which breast massage can improve.
The Myofascial Massage techniques used in Breast Health Massage help to reduce fascial adhesions in the breast that can cause additional lymphatic restriction, even when a bra is not being worn. These adhesions can result in breasts that feel swollen and painful. By reducing these adhesions, normal lymphatic circulation can be restored allowing fluid to move more easily back out of the breast.
Muscles above the breast and in the shoulder can be overly tight and cause compression on the lymphatic, circulatory, and nervous systems around the armpit. This is known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. By performing massage on the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and back, muscular tension is released. Massage for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can also improve symptoms of tingling fingers thought to be caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Both Lymphatic and Myofascial Massage techniques are extremely beneficial to women who have fibrocystic breasts. They help to reduce the lumpy, uncomfortable, and often painful sensations associated with this condition by draining stagnant areas of fluid from the breast.
If a client has had breast surgery such as a reduction, an enhancement, a mastectomy, a reconstruction, or a core biopsy, scar tissue results. Scars in this area of the body are usually psychologically charged, meaning they are tied to deep emotions. Scar Tissue Massage techniques help not only to improve the appearance of the scar, but they also reduce discomfort caused by painful adhesions that can restrict normal movement of the arms.
In addition to these benefits, Breast Health Massage serves as another tool in monitoring breast health. A key part of the Breast Health Massage is teaching the client about the techniques being performed so that she can repeat the same procedure at home as part of her regular breast health self-care.
What Conditions Can be Treated with Breast Health Massage? Who Should Get a Breast Health Massage?
The following conditions can be treated with Breast Health Massage:
- Painful Breasts
- Premenstrual Breasts (congested)
- Breast Trauma
- Post-surgical Breasts
- Scars in Breast Tissue
Anyone can have Breast Health Massage done and it can be integrated into your regular massage. Breast Cancer Survivors are highly encouraged to receive breast massage. This includes men! While uncommon, breast cancer can occur in men as they also have breast tissue. It just does not develop because of low estrogen and high testosterone levels. Men should feel completely normal asking for a Breast Health Massage.
Who Should Not Get a Breast Health Massage?
Persons with the following conditions should not get a breast massage:
- Active Breast Infections
- Lactational Mastitis
- Abscesses – massage can be performed, but not directly on the abcessed tissue
- Undiagnosed unusual contours or puckering – massage can be performed, but this area must be avoided.
How Breast Health Massage is Performed
Breast Health Massage involves much more than just the breasts. All of the surrounding areas including the chest, shoulder, abdomen, and back are massaged. This helps to free up muscle groups that all relate to the area of the breast in one way or another.
Exact techniques vary by therapist, but often breast massage begins face down on a table so that the back, sides, neck, and shoulders can be worked. The client is then allowed to turn over, and the sheet is replaced with a breast drape. The shoulders, chest, and abdomen are massaged to free up restrictions around the breasts.
Next, the lymphatic system is opened up by working areas in the abdomen, around the collar bone, and in the armpits. Then, depending on the client’s draping preferences, either the breast drape will be removed or left in place. Work directly on the breasts can be performed through a breast drape, but certain techniques that involve dragging the skin may not be as effective because it is not possible to get good traction on the skin through cloth. The drape can also be removed temporarily and then replaced once these steps have been completed.
The first technique which involves dragging the skin is done by beginning just outside of the areola (dark area surrounding the nipple) where light pressure is applied and the skin is dragged outward in a starburst fashion – like making the rays of the sun in a child’s drawing. This pulls fluid back into the breast towards the lymph ducts.
Next, the breast is lifted, gently kneaded, and moved around. This helps to stretch stuck adhesive tissues that might prevent fluid drainage out of the lymph ducts. After that, the breast is then gently and slowly rotated clockwise and counter clockwise. This helps to move fluid back out of the breast by using pressure.
Then, the client is asked to take a deep breath and while that breath is being held, the breast is gathered at the sides and held firmly. As the client exhales, the breast is held in its original position. This technique helps to loosen the fascial membranes that lie between the breast tissue and the chest wall to allow for deeper drainage. (For men and larger breasted clients, this technique may be done while lying on the side.)
Finally, flat, outward compressions are used to remove any remaining fluid from the breast. This is then followed by a repeat of the lymphatic opening performed earlier around the collar bone and arm pits.
Aromatherapy and the use of Essential Oils can be combined with this massage for a small fee. A special blend can also be made for you to take home for an additional fee. This will last approximately one year. Please let your therapist know when scheduling your appointment so they may be prepared in advance. Blends are available for breast toning, sore breast soothing, breast abscesses, cystic breast disease, and for general breast massage.
Special Considerations about Breast Health Massage
If you are considering getting a Breast Health Massage but have concerns, talk about them with your massage therapist. Good communication is key when you are having massage done on an area that may feel uncomfortable for you at first. Please feel free to speak up during your massage if that is when questions or concerns arise. You are always free to change your mind at any time.
The area of the breasts is an emotionally charged area for most people. When getting a breast massage it is very common for emotions to come to the surface and be released – sometimes as laughter, and sometimes as tears. This is a totally normal response and is expected. Although it does not happen to everyone, it happens to many people. Your massage therapist knows even before the massage begins that this may happen, so there is no need to feel ashamed if you do experience an emotional release during your massage.