Multiple Sclerosis & Massage

Multiple sclerosis greatly impacts your everyday life. While there isn’t a cure, massage therapy can help alleviate some symptoms.

What is Multiple Sclerosis? 

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. MS attacks myelin, a protective coating over our nerves. Damaged myelin forms scar tissue and if the tissue replaces a large portion of the myelin, nerve impulses can be completely disrupted and the nerves themselves can end up damaged.

Because nerve impulses are disrupted, the brain and spinal cord can’t function properly. This can cause all kinds of problems throughout your entire body.

What is the main cause of MS?

Unfortunately, a main cause hasn’t been identified, but lifestyle, environmental, genetic, and biological factors contribute and/or have been connected. Some risk factors have been identified:

  • Age – MS usually affects people between the ages of 16 and 55
  • Sex – Women are more likely to have MS
  • Family history
  • Infections – Some viruses have been linked to MS
  • Race – White people have the highest risk of developing MS while people of Asian, African, or Native American descent have the lowest
  • Climate – MS is more common in temperate climates
  • Not getting enough Vitamin D has been linked to MS

What are the symptoms of MS? 

Because nerve impulses are disrupted, the brain and spinal cord can’t function properly. This can cause all kinds of problems throughout your entire body. Some common MS symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Bladder and/or bowel dysfunction
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking
  • Blurred vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Pain 
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Tremor
  • Heat intolerance
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor coordination
  • Pressure sores
  • Spasticity (stiffness or spasms)

How can Massage Therapy help those with MS?

People with MS can experience symptoms such as fatigue, pain, spasticity, pressure sores, constipation, anxiety, and depression. When seeking out forms of complementary therapies, massage therapy should be considered!

There are many benefits of massage therapy for those suffering from MS. Some of the benefits that have been reported are:

  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced spasticity and muscle tension
  • Increased joint range of motion
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased flexibility and mobility
  • Increased energy and better sleep quality
  • Improved mood and self-esteem
  • Decreased anxiety, depression and stress
  • Improvements with constipation when given abdominal massage

Massage therapy results vary for everyone, but with reduced pain and better mobility, people with MS can look to massage to help increase their quality of life!

What type of massage is best for MS?

Many massages work well to relieve MS symptoms, but the Swedish massage is the most common type of massage used to treat MS.

A Swedish massage uses long, gliding strokes, kneading, and compression. It can also involve shaking movements, movements using the thumbs or fingertips, and quick muscle tapping. To add to the peacefulness, a massage therapist can change the lighting, music, and use aromatherapy.

How many massage treatments are recommended?

One massage treatment a week for several weeks is recommended unless you are in a relapse.

MS has no cure, but massage therapy can help you feel better physically and mentally. Massage therapy can make you feel like yourself again.

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