Massage and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Massage and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

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Massage and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

A good massage can he lp ease stress and relax your muscles. It may also help certain multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. But it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons. You’ll also want to find a qualified massage therapist who has experience working with people who have MS.

But, FIRST OF ALL,

Talk with your doctor before you try any complementary therapy, including massage. Your doctor can let you know if it may be helpful and safe for you.

What MS Symptoms Can Massage Help With?

Unfortunately the massage cannot be the cure but here are some symptoms that you might find beneficial having massage:

  • Spasticity: feeling of stiffness and muscle spasms. It might also reduce range of motion ability of some of your joints . Massage could help by relaxing your muscles. It could also improve the range-of-motion exercises as part of a gentle stretching routine.
  • Fatigue: approximately 80% of MS patients experiencing the feeling of tiredness that can keep them from getting things done at home, in workplace or at school. Massage therapy might reduce your fatigue with the right technique that stimulate nerves on the peripherals of your body. You might consider to make changes to your diet as certain food choices are make you less energetic. A professional nutrition adviser could help you if you don't want to do your own researches.
  • Pain: The MS can causing pain by damaging the nerves in your the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and you could experience pain from MS-related complications (result of infections i.e., bladder infection, accident related damages like muscle or ligament, bone injuries). Massage may calm your pain by easing muscle tension and might release endorphins. If you want to try using massage as a way to control your pain, be sure to get your doctor’s OK first.
  • Sleep issues: Poor sleep is more common in people with multiple sclerosis, yet sleep disorders are still under-recognised and under-diagnosed among MS patients. Having not enough sleep can make you feel drowsy during the day, and it could make certain MS symptoms feel worse. It might even increase the risk of falls or accidents. A massage therapist can use relaxing strokes to help you relax, reducing stress and possibly sleep better. Your life stile choices i.e. when and how you exercise, and your diet also could impact your sleep.
  • Poor circulation: approximately 80% of MS patients experiencing the feeling of tiredness that can keep them from getting things done at home, in workplace or at school. Massage therapy might reduce your fatigue with the right technique that stimulate nerves on the peripherals of your body. You might consider to make changes to your diet as certain food choices are make you less energetic. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and eating a healthy diet . A massage could also help lower your chances of this problem linked to multiple sclerosis. If you’re not very active due to MS, massage might help blood flow through your body better – and that could lower your chances for serious health complications. The friction between your skin and a massage therapist’s fingers can improve circulation through veins close to your body’s surface. The therapist will improve blood flow through deeper tissues too by massaging the muscles and providing additional "pumping" motion to the that blood vessels . The superficial strokes can help widen or expand blood vessels called capillaries in the skin. It is very important to consult to your doctor before visiting a massage therapist as some circulatory problems contraindicate massage. These symptoms include: ulcers/none-healing wounds, unilateral swelling (oedema appears only on one leg) could be sign of DVT, discoloured limb/toes (the skin could be pale looks blood less or dark purple/ blackish) due to lack of blood flow.

If you having oedema and your doctor told you it is safe to have massage I would recommend you to consider the MLD as a possible option to reduce swelling of the tissues. This would improve the overall conditions of the impacted area.

  • Pressure sores (bedsores): These types of sores develop when a bonny surface being under pressure for extended period of time (i.e. bed bounded people or those with paralysis). The cause of it is that the blood flow of the area reduces and the cells die due to lack of oxygen. Depending of the lengths of time and the amount of pressure these wounds could be categorised from category 1 to category 4. You can read about pressure sores more here . If MS causes you to sit or lie in one position for a long time you could be at risk to develop these kinds of wounds. Sliding across your bed or a wheelchair seat could also cause friction on your skin, some sites consider it as pressure injury but it isn’t (it is treated the same ways). The best way to avoid pressure sores are the regular pressure relief i.e. regular position changes if you are in wheel chair or regular turns if you are in bed. It is also important to have the right pressure reducing equipment in place for you. Massage may help you prevent pressure sores as it is increasing the blood flow. But you shouldn’t get a massage on a body part that already has a sore or a reddish, inflamed area.

Is the massage safe for every MS patients?

As I mentioned few times above, the first thing is to talk to your doctor and ask if it is recommended.

The Massage therapy wouldn't be safe if you have the following conditions:

  1. Oedema (if its NOT DVT related MLD might be recommended for you)
  2. MS flare-up: An exacerbation of MS (also known as a relapse, attack or flare-up) is the occurrence new symptoms or the worsening of old symptoms.
  3. Osteoporosis: Its a condition when your bones losing their density and become fragile. This condition increases the risk of fractures not only in MS but in any cases.
  4. If you have that don't seem to heal
  5. Extreme untreated or unstable high blood pressure, its increases the risk of strokes.
  6. Recently diagnosed with cancer. Some people worry that massage could cause cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Research has not found any evidence of this happening, but massage therapists will avoid any areas affected by cancer, such as tumour sites or lymph nodes. Talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse if you are worried. If a massage therapist is not sure about where on your body it is safe to massage, they might choose to massage your hands or feet instead. Information regarding massage during cancer treatments 
  7. DVT diagnosed in past 12 months, under anticoagulant (blood thinner) treatment. 
  8. The first trimester of pregnancy
  9. Heart disease (please confirm with your doctor)
  10. Any infectious disease

Are there Side Effects of the Massage?

Some people say they’ve had minor side effects like a headache, muscle pain, and tiredness after the massage but these are general side effects, not MS related. During massage use of high heat or cold aren't recommended as these temperatures can make your MS symptoms worse. The therapist should also make sure the room they treat you in isn’t too hot or chilly.

Some folks with MS need to keep a certain amount of muscle tone to move well. If they relax too much during a massage, they could have trouble walking when they get off the massage table. A massage therapist who’s qualified to work on people with MS should know what changes they need to make if this happens to you.

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