Alternative Treatments: Massage

 

Benefits of Massage

Most everyone can agree that getting a massage feels pretty good. But for us MSers, it can go beyond just feeling good and actually aid in symptom management as well. Massage and body work isn’t a replacement treatment, but is considered a Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Some of the benefits are decreased pain, spasticity, and depression and increased flexibility among other benefits.

Pain

Pain is an unfortunate reality for many individuals who have MS. It is estimated that around 60% of individuals living with MS, have pain as a symptom. There are several medications out on the market to help with pain, but many of them come with severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms, which are not optimal. Enter massage. When pain strikes, massage can help reduce the pain. The pressure that is put on the muscles where the pain is occurring can help decrease the pain. We do this in our every day lives as well. You know when you stub your toe or hit your elbow? What is the first thing that you instinctively do, you go to rub it and try to make it stop hurting, right? Same idea here.

Flexibility and Spasticity

Massage can also help with flexibility and spasticity. When experiencing episodes of spasticity, especially in the legs, your muscles become overly tight and rigid. Massage will counteract this by helping to relax the muscles. Massage will naturally increase blood flow and circulation to muscles and muscle surrounding joints, which in turn will help with stiffness and flexibility as well. Quick side note about flexibility, if this is something you are working on, then keeping up with gentle movement like light stretching and yoga daily would be helpful too.

Emotional

One of the biggest benefits, in my opinion, of massage is the reduction of stress, depression and anxiety symptoms. We all know that stress is a big trigger for an increase in symptoms and even the possibility of a relapse (one of my biggest triggers!). So finding ways of managing stress and those hard emotions is really important. Massage is one of the best ways to do so. On top of all of the physical benefits, it has significant emotional benefits as well. Several studies have shown that individuals feel less anxiety and less depressed mood following massage. At the end of the study the individuals had improved self-esteem, improved body image, improved experience of disease progression and better social functioning. I’d say those are pretty great results!

Contraindications

Although it might sound like massage is totally safe at all times, there are some things to keep in mind. Since we are particularly sensitive to temperature, the temperature of the massage room and everything involved with the massage should be kept in mind. Nothing should be too hot or too cold. Something else to be mindful of is your level of sensation or numbness. If you are experiencing either more sensation or less sensation, this is something to communicate with your masseuse.
Massage is a wonderful tool to help yourself feel both physically and emotionally better, at the same time. On top of the benefits mentioned above, massage can also help with fatigue, constipation, walking and balance issues and muscle weakness. I’d say it’s time to book a massage!
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