What Exactly Is A Breast Massage & How Can It Benefit Your Health?
When you think of rubbing your breasts, there are two things that likely come to mind: intimacy and breast cancer self-exams. But the truth is, massaging your breasts has some major health benefits, not to mention it's a great form of self-care. Yes, in addition to your face mask, mani/pedi, and head-to-toe exfoliation, you'll want to add your breasts to that #SelfcareSunday checklist.
"Breast massage can potentially improve circulation, relieve pain and swelling, reduce tension and stress, and aid with breastfeeding," says licensed massage therapist Ben Brown, LMT. "Plus, self-massage can center your mind, care for your body, and bring an overall sense of well-being."
Think of all the good feels you get with a full-body massage; well, breast massage gives similar results, plus targeted benefits. You can get a professional breast massage with consent, but it's also possible to perform one on yourself at home with a few tips from experts.
What is a breast massage?
A proper breast massage is about more than simply rubbing your chest. It actually has roots in the ayurvedic practice abhyanga. "Abhyanga is a rhythmic, light touch massage using large amounts of herbal oil," says certified ayurvedic practitioner and massage therapist Julie Bernier. "The ancient ayurvedic sages recommended that we do self-abhyanga daily to maintain our health." Although this traditional practice includes massaging the breasts, it also focuses on the entire body. For the breasts, specifically, it involves gentle massaging of the tissue in circular strokes.
When it comes to modern Western culture, massaging the girls isn't exactly the most popular service on the spa menu. So if you're looking to book a professional service, visit an ayurveda-focused spa or call your local spa about available options.
What are the benefits of breast massage?
Unlike breast self-exams to check for lumps or abnormalities (which are still very important), breast massages are meant to be soothing. In addition to relaxation, they are also thought to have a number of other benefits:
They may help with circulation.
"A breast massage can improve circulation and aid in detoxing," says Torrie Thompson, D.C., lead health coach at Modern Holistic Health. "The breasts are part of the lymphatic system, which moves toxins and unwanted materials through the body." And since many women have blockages in their lymph drainage (thanks to bras, lack of exercise, and even scars), incorporating breast massages might help to clear up blockages and help your body eliminate toxins more effectively.
They could aid milk production when breastfeeding.
Breast massages can also benefit breastfeeding moms. "Women who breastfeed may find their milk is more abundant and free-flowing with regular massages done in the ayurvedic way," Bernier says.
A study with new moms found that breast massages not only helped reduce pain while feeding but also reduced the amount of sodium in the participants' milk, too. Breast massages in the first-year postpartum may also improve the quality of breast milk, according to another study. And, in general, this type of massage has been known to help clear any blockages or plugs in the milk ducts.
They help alleviate stress.
Like all massages, this one could offer positive feelings. "Oxytocin is one of our feel-good hormones that is also released from breastfeeding and hugging," Thompson says. This same hormone is triggered during breast massages, which can help boost your mood and alleviate stress.
They could reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Although there isn't much scientific research that proves this is indeed true, one 2012 study found that regular massage with almond oil can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. But it's primarily anecdotal, and more information is needed before making any definitive conclusions.
They relieve sore muscles.
If your exercise routine involves pushups or weightlifting, you might find that your breasts feel sore post-training. That's because the pectoralis major and minor muscles (often referred to as "pecs") are located under the breast tissues. "These muscles can get tight with daily stress, exercise, poor posture, or tightened muscles in the neck and back," Thompson says. So, it's possible a breast massage could help alleviate this excess strain and tightness in your muscles.
How do you perform a breast massage?
There are a few things to ensure before you begin a breast massage. For starters, you'll need oil. According to Bernier one of the most basic options used in ayurvedic massage is untoasted sesame oil, but you can use jojoba, olive, coconut—or whatever you have on hand. To warm the oil, rub it between your palms or place a glass jar of oil in a bowl of hot water. Remember, this is supposed to be soothing and relaxing, so don't skimp on the oil.
Once you've got your warm oil on hand, you'll want to find a location that is free of distractions. It is important to choose somewhere you feel very comfortable; otherwise, the self-love and pampering aspect of the massage are lost. You can opt for your bed, the floor, or even a bath or shower. "If you're not happy, it won't feel good, and that's critical," says Brown. "Make sure you find a position and situation that work best for your body."
To perform the massage, Brown suggests these steps:
- Use the first four fingers of your hand to apply gentle pressure in a circular motion. You should start close to the nipple and move toward the outside of the breast. Repeat this action until you've massaged the entire breast.
- Bring your four fingers just under the armpit, with the weight of your palm against the outside of the breast. Gently push the breast toward the other side of your body.
- Then, place the pads of your fingers at the crease of the armpit and lightly drag the skin a few inches toward the center of your body, using a circular motion. You'll want to repeat this while moving from the collarbone to the shoulder to the neck.
- Finish with a light stroking downward along the breastbone, making sure to repeat on the other breast.
Note: Since you're not working out any knots, you won't want to apply intense pressure during this massage—save that for back and body massages. Brown says the best technique is adding gradual pressure, to your comfort. "If you encounter tenderness, lighten your touch to your satisfaction."
If you feel any pain during the massage or are concerned about any negative side effects, it's always best to consult with your doctor. But overall, the entire experience should be relaxing and pleasant.
As far as the frequency of the massage, it's truly up to you. Bernier says that traditional ayurvedic practice suggests doing it daily, but she believes once a week is more realistic for today's culture. And hey, if you find yourself doing it two to three times a week, kudos to you.
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Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.