Pregnancy can be tough on the body. Although a woman’s body is made to nurture and carry a fetus for 10 months, it does not mean that the task is easy. Her physical structure will change to accommodate the additional load in the front. The mother’s joints will become more relaxed and flexible to distribute the extra weight. Her blood supply increases by approximately 30-40%. Increases in breathing rate and cardiac output provide ample oxygen to both mother and growing baby.
With the increased need for cardiac output, the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the mother’s body as well as the fetus. Keeping the circulation vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries) relaxed, open, and clear ease the heart’s pumping obligations. Managing bodyweight, keeping an adequate fitness level, and maintaining a healthy diet are three things that are recommended before and during pregnancy to help a woman reduce her cardiovascular burden. But, something that can greatly improve cardiovascular efficiency and reduce vascular resistance is soleus muscle massage.
The soleus muscles are large flat muscles of the calves located between the posterior knee and heel. They lie underneath the gastrocnemius at the superior end and tie into the Achilles tendon at the inferior end. The soleus muscles are situated adjacent to the deep veins that help transport blood back to the heart. When the soleus contracts during walking, running, or jumping, it acts as a pump for venous blood returning to the heart. The soleus is such a powerful pump, it has been dubbed the ‘second heart’.
The importance of the soleus muscles in pumping blood cannot be understated. If they are strong, supple, active, and functioning to capacity, the soleus can synergistically work with the heart and pump blood efficiently throughout the pregnant woman‘s body. But if the soleus muscles are tight and/or in spasm, the heart does not get the extra assistance. Unfortunately, the heart will then work alone and be forced to pump that much harder. Additionally, tight soleus muscles can restrict blood flow significantly and lead to swelling, edema, high blood pressure, varicose veins, phlebitis, posterior compartment syndrome, increased breathlessness, and other complications. Tight soleus muscles can also trigger low back pain, which can amplify pregnancy related lumbago.
Treatment of soleus muscles should ideally be sought throughout the entire pregnancy. Acupuncture and massage therapy are two drug-free solutions that can provide marked results while also giving the mother-to-be a chance to relax during treatment session. With regular treatments, a woman can reduce lethargy and fatigue, improve emotional state, minimize painful edema and swelling, lower blood pressure, reduce back pain, lower respiratory exertion, and improve her overall state of being.
A sample treatment at our clinic would be:
- Acupuncture – UB40, UB57, UB58, Soleus Motor Point (MP) 1-3, Gastrocnemius MP 1-2, Peroneus Longus MP, Peroneus Brevis MP
- Massage Therapy/Tui Na – Soleus, Gastrocnemius, Peroneus Group, Anterior Tibialis, Intrinsic Muscles of Foot
- Exercise – Movement of the soleus will improve blood flow. Add a daily walk to routine.
- Advise Suggest use of The Sciaticare Ball for patient self-use to manage and release Soleus Trigger Points, Lower Back & Sciatica Trigger Points. This maintenance is recommended between visits to your healthcare practitioner.
- The Soleus Muscle, The Second Heart (augustpoint.wordpress.com)