There’s a salon about three blocks from my apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, and among the usual list of pedicures and facials, there’s a service on its brochure that caught my eye: “The Bitch Massage,” also known as a treatment that targets a variety of women’s PMS-induced symptoms.
Putting aside the incredibly sexist name for a sec, I learned “specific massage strokes” are used on “pressure points,” and a therapist works some magic on your blood circulation, nervous system, and stress levels. It’s $140 for 60 minutes, and it’s supposed to make you feel more relaxed while easing cramps, lower back pain, and fluid retention. You know, all the stuff that makes me a bitch for a few days a month. In all seriousness, I do suffer from pretty heavy PMS, so I scheduled an appointment. Worst case, it’s an expensive publicity stunt, but at least I can lie down in a dark room for an hour on a Thursday afternoon.
The appointment itself started with herbal tea and a bathrobe while my massage therapist explained that the Bitch will help my PMS-induced “emotional distress” as well as the physical symptoms listed on the website. “Who doesn’t feel better after a massage?” she asked, making me realize that this has approximately a 90 percent chance of being a gimmick.
The first few minutes involved some admittedly delightful aromatherapy and breathing techniques (relaxation, tick!), before the therapist held my neck with a tight grip and worked the fingers of her other hand up underneath my skull. I don’t know how or why, but this feels amazing. A hot towel was slowly draped over my neck, shoulders, and lower back, and she then started massaging her way down my back, arms, and legs, stopping frequently to focus on pressure points on my back, legs, and hands. After about 45 minutes, I turned over to have my stomach massaged, which felt a little weird at first but did help with the cramping. The acupressure combined with the heat did take the edge off my period pain a little, and the entire experience was certainly relaxing.
After my appointment, I probed the woman who created the massage, Lara Katsman, about the acupressure points used, keen to take notes and then beg my boyfriend to re-create this aspect of the massage at home, because he’s much less expensive. Apparently the points directly relating to PMS are on your feet, legs, knee, and stomach, and she explained how women can get massage results at home.
“One spot is on the top of the foot in the webbing in between the first and second toe,” she said. Another point is on the inside surface of the leg, four fingers’ width above the inner ankle bone, and another sits four fingers below the kneecap toward the outside of the shinbone—this one I found super ticklish. The other main spot is on the midline of the abdomen two fingers’ width below the belly button, which explains all the stomach massaging. “According to beliefs of Chinese medicine, those points are communicating with energy channels, which are meridians, by balancing the qi flow in corresponding areas,” Katsman explained. “It helps to alleviate and control pain symptoms due to PMS.”
I’d probably go back for this treatment next month, but did the Bitch cure me of all PMS symptoms? No. Did it make me feel less emotionally distressed? Yes. Plus, the combination of heat and acupressure did help with the cramps, so even if you’re nowhere near a professional treatment, it’s worth trying those techniques out at home.