About 5 months into my pregnancy I started jolting awake with searing night leg cramps. Extremely physically active throughout my 9 months, I knew it was not due to idleness, nor a lack of potassium and/or calcium as I am nutritionally hip to that. Pregnancy research does not indicate what creates the leg spasms that typically begin around the second trimester. It could be the extra weight carried puts pressure on the leg muscles, or the expanding uterus compressing blood vessels that move blood through the legs back to the heart. The interesting thing to me is the difference between how the Western world approaches pregnancy care compared to the rest of the world.
As a certified massage therapist, I studied pregnancy massage that clearly points out many contraindicated points to avoid. The fear is that if pressed too deeply, one can induce labor before it is time. A series of these points to avoid literally surround the feet and lower leg! Gasp! What’s a girl to do to relieve leg pain, move to Europe? Maybe, or maybe just adapt to a European mindset. Overseas, pregnancy massage always includes leg and foot massage because they know it helps women with this exact issue. After many years of bathing in the fear infused waters of Americas massage therapists, I realized that what almost every woman wanted, was exactly what I was taught not to administer. How can that be?
So I began to offer my clients the option from an educated decision. That said, still to this day if someone is high risk pregnancy or carrying multiples I tend to honor the contraindicative points and stay away from deep work in those areas. In my experience, baby comes when baby is ready. The “points” are there to assist in labor, and may help both mother and child with the transitions to bring baby into this world. Needless to say, when it was my turn to decide, I dove in to relieving my leg spasms in multiple ways.
I loved getting pregnancy massages though no one really administered what I really wanted, so I had to find it on my own. Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to the rescue! Following a series of leg and foot therapy ball work, I also frequently did Sitting Seza With A Strap (included below and on the 5 Minute Quick Fix for Feet and Ankles) as well as calf stretches. This work relieved my painful leg cramps completely!
Read our “Pregnant women have no fear” article.
Watch our Free Hip Fix Video.
Read about abdominal exercises for pregnant women.
It seems like if you could truly induce a woman by deeply massaging the points on the lower legs, why would the hospital ever need to induce a woman medically? While I was told the same thing during YTT, I’ve often wondered why I have never heard of a woman being induced this way.
My prenatal students and clients mention this issue constantly. I was also instructed to avoid various points during a prenatal massage as to not induce labor but it does limit the ability to work on the various muscles that would help relieve calf cramps. I am so excited to include the therapy ball and calf work in my prenatal classes!
I had tight calves during pregnancy, but no serious cramping. I also had restless leg syndrome which I was able to keep at bay by taking magnesium. I wish I had know about yoga tune up then as I’m sure these stretches as well as the yoga tune up balls would have helped as well. Its funny how we (North Americans) think we are so advance and yet areas like this (the contraindications of massage) as well as many other areas where we are told not to do certain things during pregnancy, can actually be so beneficial.
[…] Leg cramps during pregnancy? – Read about it here. […]
Thank you for this information. As a I have not experienced pregnancy but it is comforting to know that there is a way to relieve discomfort through the YTU practice as well as aid of the therapy balls. Sitting Sez is one of my favorite postures. Its amazing that this posture can cause so many different reactions in different bodies. It shows how much attention to our feet, we could ALL use.
I love this post and this take on how to approach self-care in a pregnant body. I use the YTU balls in my prenatal classes but have long shied away from the supraspinatus and certain points in the feet that are commonly considered contraindicated. After taking the YTU Therapy Ball Training with Jill last November, I decided to start going to these spots in class with plenty of explanation about what they’re traditionally used for (and I do use them all the time as a doula attending births, especially inductions). Most women still choose to roll over them, and I see immediate relief in their faces when they hit these spots that don’t often get much love. Thank you for talking about this topic which is so often just pushed aside as unimportant for 9 months…
What I find interesting is how “governing bodies” love to tell us what we should fear. Especially when they decide “what” it is WE should fear about how we treat our own bodies.
That said, providing your patients information that allows them to make an informed decisions decisions on their OWN bodies, is an approach that I appreciate.
My solution to fear; To BE SMART. Then I don’t focus so much on fear.
Good for you for empowering your patients.
As a body practitioner I can relate to the “fear” surrounding leg massage for pregnant women. I am glad that you have approached this topic. We need to be able to approach out patients with a thorough understanding of how the body works and works best to heal itself especially during a time when so much change is occurring in the body. I also have a sister who is 7 months pregnant and often complains about leg pain. I will definitely be directing her to this blog!
Thank you for this post! I have a new pregnant client and have not been pregnant myself so this is very helpful. I find this YTU pose that stretches the feet and ankles to be so challenging and so rewarding at the same time. I am trying to do it more often to increase the flexion in my toes and strength of my ankles. Before YTU, I had not considered strapping my ankles, though instructed to draw the ankles together. This seems like the most affective method for healthy ankle strengthening.
this is so helpful for pregnant women on bed rest!
Fantastically educative thanks, I reckon your audience might want a great deal more items of this nature continue the great content.
Tiffany, thanks for breaking the silence on this issue. Every woman’s needs are different, and every baby growing inside its mother will cause specific changes as well. Your courage to speak out about this topic is so necessary and so desperately needed by women whose circulation is being impacted by their pregnancy. Our culturally indoctrinated body fears come from so much mis-information. More blogs like this PLEASE!!!