by Amber Young, Registered Massage Therapist
(ed note: Amber Young has been a practicing RMT since 2004. She is passionate about her work, focusing on breast health, lymphatic drainage, and work with cancer survivors. She has a special interest in the mental-emotional link to wellness and is available for treatments by contacting the clinic at 613-839-1198. She is also facilitating the workshop listed below.)
Breast Health Workshop with Amber Young
Tues, Sept 13, 7-8:30pm
Cost $20+HST, RSVP to 613-839-1198.
Breasts are body tissues, which have a fairly simple anatomical design and quite straightforward needs, however they are much too often neglected in the overall care of our bodies.
Breasts are comprised of an intricate system of ducts and glands, as well as lymphatic tissue, fascia and ligaments, which support the breast tissue. There is also an important layer of tissue that we need to consider which is located between the breast tissue itself and the underlying pectoral muscles, which is very significant in the drainage patterns, and the overall movement of the breast, this area is called the retromammary space and has a rich source of lymphatic nodes and vessels. When you think about the fact that we wear clothes that compress these tissues and bind them in towards our bodies – it is no wonder many women experience pain, swelling, and discomfort within or around the breasts.
Breasts don’t have muscles or extra support from joints to facilitate movement; therefore they require external mobility to support ongoing circulation helping to maintain tissue health and help to prevent dis-ease and possible pain syndromes. The lymph nodes that drain the breasts are also positioned in locations that are prone to compression, for example in the armpit and along the middle of the chest wall.
Breasts are susceptible to various changes, which often create discomfort, over a women’s lifespan:
- The menstrual cycle
- The natural process of aging and associated changes (involution)
- Pregnancy (both during and after)
- Dietary changes
- Environmental stressors
Breasts are subject to undergoing various surgeries, diagnostic procedures, trauma, as well as the diagnosis of both benign and malignant conditions. Unfortunately breast cancer is also becoming more and more common. It is vitally important for us to respect the needs of our breasts and to become more comfortable in caring for them and touching them in a healthy and therapeutic way, which will help in recognizing problems in their early stages.
Statistics show that most women experience breast discomfort at some point in their lifetimes, and that the number of women that will report this pain to their primary care giver is quite low, why? Perhaps because breasts don’t receive the attention or level of importance in a women’s overall care that they require. Breasts are often seen as a “taboo” topic, especially in our society where breasts are often sexualized rather than respected, which gives many women a decreased sense of confidence in voicing any concerns they may have about their breasts!
Why is breast massage important?
- Massage can support both the blood circulation and the lymphatic drainage of breast tissue. Blockages in overall circulation cause much of the swelling and discomfort women experience – which massage speaks directly to.
- Women that have undergone breast surgery (either due to breast reduction or enlargement, lumpectomy, mastectomy or other indications for surgery) experience various complaints of pain and other changes as a result. Massage can work specifically with the scar tissue helping to improve the health of the scar and the surrounding structures, improves the movement between tissues, helps to eliminate resultant pain, increases range of motion, reduces swelling, and often allows for much needed post trauma care to affected and untouched tissues. Massage can also help to support your mind and body in adapting to often very traumatizing changes.
- Breast massage also supports regular breast assessment/examination, either by you or a trusted and experienced therapist. It helps to provide a more comfortable way of monitoring for changes in the breast, including healthy changes. I would like to emphasize a focus on prevention here.
- Breast massage can also help to normalize attitudes about breasts, reducing fear of this very sacred area of your body and the consideration of its’ care. Past trauma, emotional holding patterns, disease, or simply not having had the opportunity to safely explore the needs of our breasts can be dangerous to your health in overlooking possible problems.
There are many other reasons why breast massage is important, specific to the individual. Seeking breast massage may not be something at this stage that you are comfortable including in your health care regime, but it is important to seriously consider discussing your breast health or spending some personal time becoming comfortable with connecting with your breasts. It is important to take ownership for this part of your body and gain education about self-massage, drainage techniques, hydrotherapy, dietary support, and exercise/stretches. Your breasts are a part of your body, a life nourishing part, that are as deserving of care as every inch of you — it’s never too late to establish healthy breast practices.