October 31st, 2012
Within the context of a solid therapeutic relationship, low libido may be revealed by a client. Through education and bodywork, massage therapists have the ability to help clients conquer this common issue.
By Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
Although not an easy topic to discuss, those who feel comfortable enough with their massage therapist might seek advice on a range of health and personal conditions. Crossing the boundary between a health and personal issue, low libido is surprisingly common among American women. If a client confides in her massage therapist by discussing this kind of problem, a practitioner who is knowledgeable about its various causes and solutions can be a wonderful, professional ally to affected clients.
About Low Libido
Although it may be more obvious in men, low sex drive plagues women too. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of women report that their sex drive has diminished over the past few years. Various surveys appear to support this estimate, with anywhere from 20 to 52 percent of women saying that their sex drive isn’t what it used to be. The most comprehensive survey conducted to date found that 33 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have a diminished sex drive. This means that approximately one in every three women in your massage practice no longer feel as interested in sex as she used to.
A woman’s sexual desire naturally fluctuates over the years. Highs and lows in libido can coincide with major life changes like the beginning or end of a relationship, pregnancy, menopause or illness. While occasional dips in sex drive are expected, some people could use additional help in getting out of a sexual rut.
While the definition of a healthy sexual appetite varies from woman to woman, professionals acknowledge that it’s difficult to measure what’s normal and what’s not. Technically, a hypoactive sexual desire disorder is applicable if there is a persistent or recurrent lack of interest in sex that causes personal distress. However, a disorder needn’t be present for a woman to want help boosting libido.
Causes of Low Libido
A woman’s desire for sex is based on a compilation of many complex components affecting intimacy. Some of the more common causes of diminished sexual desire include:
- Physical Issues – Fatigue, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and neurological diseases can all contribute to a low sex drive.
- Hormone Imbalance – Diminished libido can be caused by menopause, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Medications – Many prescription medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications and chemotherapy drugs, are notorious libido killers.
- Emotional Well-Being – A variety of mental health problems can affect sexual desire such as stress, anxiety, depression, poor body image, low self-esteem and a history of abuse.
- Current Relationship – Issues in a relationship are frequent culprits of low libido. Examples include lack of connection with the partner, unresolved conflicts, poor sexual communication and infidelity.
While it is not a massage therapist’s job to identify the cause of a client’s low libido issues, sharing its many potential sources can help affected women recognize whatever applies to them.
Although it was listed above as just one of the nearly 20 causes, stress is a dominant reason for reduced sex drive. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 48 percent of Americans report their stress level has risen over the past five years. Being stressed out typically puts sex on the bottom of the priority list. Even if someone convinces themselves to engage in sexual activity while stressed, the likelihood of it being enjoyable is extremely low.
Luckily, massage therapists are experts at delivering stress relief – a precursor to improving libido. No studies have been done linking massage therapy to the improvement of hypoactive sexual desire disorder. However, massage has demonstrated the ability to dramatically reduce stress as measured by lowered cortisol levels. An accepted biological marker of stress, cortisol also decreases testosterone – the hormone most responsible for sex drive. Because men have about 10 times more testosterone than women, a reduction in cortisol is an even bigger problem for women than it is for men.
Besides massage therapy, a therapist can give suggestions to their clients for relieving stress, such as:
- teaching deep breathing exercises
- advising a meditation practice
- suggesting relaxing music
- encouraging regular exercise and enjoyable activities
- supporting mental health counseling
For clients seeking help for a diminished libido, educating them about the possible causes is an important first step. Besides facilitating the acknowledgement of what is driving their loss of interest in sex, massage therapists can actually help with stress relief by administering skilled bodywork and by providing their clients with other stress-relieving solutions. In these ways, massage therapists are in an ideal position to help clients relax and, thus, regain their libido.
Barker, Elizabeth, How can I rev up my sex drive?, Natural Health, April/May 2011; 22.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/97362-naturally-increase-libido/, How to Naturally Increase Libido, Retrieved March 20, 2011, Demand Media, Inc., 2011.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-sex-drive-in-women/DS01043, Low Sex Drive in Women, Retrieved March 20, 2011, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2011.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stress-and-sex/201006/first-hello-high-strung-low-libido-therapist-who-stays-calm-and-has-great, Stress and Sex, Laurie Mintz, PhD, Retrieved March 20, 2011,Psychology Today, Sussex Directories, Inc, 2011.
Like this massage article? Sign up today for our free e-newsletter! You'll receive high-quality, original articles designed specifically for the massage professional right to your email. Plus tips and important updates to help build your massage practice.