Is a Chair Massage Okay During Pregnancy?

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Pregnant woman getting a chair massage

Pregnancy can wreak havoc on a woman's body, causing many pregnant women to suffer from a wide variety of aches and pains. Back pain caused by the growing uterus is one of the most common pregnancy complaints, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some pregnant women try to relieve lumbar and posterior pelvic pain, the two main types of back pain, with chair massages.

Pregnancy Chair Massage Overview

In a chair massage, the pregnant client sits in an ergonomically designed chair that features a padded face rest and padded chest rest. The pregnant woman leans forward to receive the massage from a seated, yet supported position.

Why It's Popular With Pregnant Women

While there are specific prenatal massages, they require specially designed tables and cushion systems that are built to support a pregnant client who is lying down. Many massage therapists do not have this equipment and, even when they do, some pregnant women find the tables uncomfortable or are simply unable to climb up on them.

  • Chair massages are ideal for self-conscious pregnant women who don't want to lay on a table and who want to remain dressed.
  • This type of massage is typically oil or lotion-free, so it may also be a good option for clients who have an oversensitive sense of smell due to the pregnancy hormones.
  • Chair massages usually only last around 30 minutes and are more time and cost-efficient than other types of prenatal massages.

Massage Trimesters

Like other prenatal massages, many massage therapists will not give a chair massage during the first trimester, or first three months, of the pregnancy. This is due to a slightly higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester than the second and third trimesters.

Health Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnancy massages given by certified prenatal massage therapists can be a very effective treatment for back pain during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association reports that prenatal massages can help to relieve muscle aches and joint pains, decrease symptoms of depression, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Potential Risks of Pregnancy Chair Massages

Many of the risks of prenatal chair massages are the same as the risks associated with other types of pregnancy massages. However, one of the main risks for the lying-down prenatal massage is body position, which is not a factor in chair massage. Also, it is advised that massage therapists do not use deep-tissue massage strokes on a pregnant woman's legs, as it could cause blood clots. This is not a common issue in chair massages.

Other precautions and risks for any pregnancy massage include the following:

  • Non-certified prenatal massage therapists may not know how to address sensitive areas or how to work with specific pregnancy-related aches.
  • Some pressure points on the wrists and ankles can stimulate the pelvic muscles and may cause premature labor, so they should be avoided.
  • Women who have high-risk pregnancies, pregnancy-induced hypertension (preeclampsia), or have had a previous pre-term labor should get their doctor's approval before going for any type of prenatal massage.

Is a Vibrating Massage Chair Safe?

A vibrating massage chair is much like a nicely, cushioned recliner that has a combination of rollers, motors and vibrating mechanisms that can perform a variety of massage techniques such as kneading, rolling and Shiatsu. Typically, a pregnant woman should be able to use a vibrating massage chair. This is basically an easy way to get a massage that can provide many benefits. If you are healthy and are not having any complications with your pregnancy, a massage in a vibrating chair should be safe. However, it is always best to first check with your doctor.

Woman relaxing on the massaging chair

Possible Problems

Many of the risks of the vibrating massage chair are the same as the traditional chair massage. Therefore, it is important that you are aware of these risks and take the proper precautions.

  • If there is a heating element in your massage chair, you may want to turn it off. There is a chance it could raise your body temperature and affect the baby, yet the heating element should never get hot enough to overheat you.
  • While the vibrating massage chair could possibly stimulate pressure points that may cause premature labor, there's no evidence to prove this is true.
  • Some of the chairs have electromagnetic fields but there's no evidence it could cause harm to you or your baby.
  • Be cautious using the vibrating massage chair for lower back pain because that could be a sign of premature labor.
  • Avoid using the vibrating massage chair in the first trimester.
  • Be careful using the chair in the third trimester. You do not want to place unnecessary pressure on your belly. If you do not fit, don't use it.

Just as the traditional chair massages, if you have preeclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy, or a history of preterm labor do not use the vibrating massage chair unless your doctor says it's okay.

Additional Things You Should Know About Vibrating Massage Chairs

What you should know if you opt to use a vibrating massage chair:

  • The vibrations are considered mild for your baby. It is the same as if you were out on an energetic walk.
  • The benefits of a vibrating massage chair are the same as a chair massage or a traditional massage.
  • Limit your time to 15 to 20 minutes in the vibrating massage chair.

Effective Pain Relief for Pregnancy and Beyond

Pregnancy chair massages can help relieve pain and make the long nine months a little more pleasant. Some women even hire their massage therapists to be on-hand during labor. However, you should always consult with your doctor or midwife before starting this type of alternative pain treatment.

Is a Chair Massage Okay During Pregnancy?