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Types Of Massage For Multiple Sclerosis

Massage is the most common of all bodywork therapies. It was used in ancient Greece as a treatment for sports and war injuries. Today, massage is used to relax muscles, reduce stress and relieve conditions exacerbated by muscle tension. Types of massage commonly practiced in the United States today include the following.

Most common Swedish massage, which could use the traditional techniques of:

  • Effleurage (a long gliding stroke)
  • Petrissage (kneading and compressions)

Less common: Vibration (a fine, rapid, shaking movement). Friction (deep circular movements with thumb pads or fingertips) and Tapotement (a series of quick movements using the hands alternatively to strike or tap the muscles)

German massage, which combines Swedish movements with therapeutic baths (which are not recommended for people with MS who are heat sensitive). As well as Hot Stone Massage would to recommended.

Deep Tissue Techniques:

Classic Deep Tissue Massage- Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff “trouble spots” in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage may be therapeutic — relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.

Ashiatsu– Can be deeper than Deep Tissue Massage. Ashi (foot) -atsu (pressure) is a deep, painless form of barefoot massage that you will love. A therapist, is not going to be “walking on you”. The bars on the ceiling are used only to help keep the balance and be able to do more different moves with massaging with feet. Ashiatsu is a massage where massage strokes are performed with feet. The pressure can be applied as deep as necessary, because therapist can engage the whole body to perform the moves unlike only the upper body strength with regular deep tissue massage. Ashiatsu massage can be as relaxing as  Swedish and as light and painless if you want it to be. As well t can be more intense in muscle tension relief is that is whats necessary to do during the session.

Acupressure, which stems from the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture but uses fingers rather than needles to stimulate specific parts of the body.

Shiatsu, a Japanese system based on finger pressure, which focuses on prevention rather than healing; its purpose is to increase circulation and restore energy balance in the body.

Other common forms of bodywork therapy include:
  • Rolfing or Aston variations — an effort to correct body alignment by applying deep pressure to the fascia (tissues that cover muscle and internal organs).
  • Feldenkrais method — “awareness through movement” — which is designed to make patterns of movement easier and more efficient by correcting habits that unduly strain muscles and joints.
  • Alexander technique — a movement therapy intended to correct bad habits of posture and movement that lead to muscle and body strain and tension.
  • Trager method (Tragerwork) — in which gentle, rhythmic touch is combined with exercises to release tension in posture and movement.

Safety & effectiveness

Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) use massage for prevention or relief of the following symptoms:

  • Spasticity — Massage can help relax muscles and enhance range of motion exercises.
  • Pain — Massage is useful in any condition in which a reduction in swelling or mobilization of tissues leads to pain relief. It can provide pleasurable stimulation, giving the person with MS a chance to relax, and relieving anxiety and fear. If massage is used as an aid for controlling pain, it should be used under the advice of a physician.
  • Poor circulation — Massage can increase blood flow through superficial veins by use of friction, and through deeper arteries and veins by use of petrissage (massaging of skin that is gently lifted and squeezed). Massage can also increase capillary dilation through light stroking.
  • Pressure sores — Massage may be helpful in preventing the development of pressure sores but should not be used if pressure sores or reddened areas of inflammation are present.

Massage may be unsafe in these conditions or may require a massage therapist with medical massage training:

  • Edema — swelling caused by an accumulation of excessive amounts of watery fluid in cells, tissues or body cavities. Edema can have many causes, including heart and kidney disease, and it is essential that a physician determine the reason for the edema before beginning massage. If the edema is the result of immobility, mild massage may be helpful.
  • Osteoporosis — bones becoming brittle to the point of being easily broken. For reasons that are not entirely clear, but which may be related to corticosteroid use and restricted mobility, people with MS tend to have lower bone mass than the general population and are more subject to fractures. When osteoporosis is present, massage therapy should be given only with the advice of a physician.
  • Ulcers or enlargement of liver or spleen.
  • People who have recent injuries or have been diagnosed with cancer, arthritis or heart disease should consult a physician before receiving massage therapy.
  • Women who are pregnant should consult their physician about the types of massage that are appropriate during pregnancy.

While massage can be helpful in relieving stress and inducing relaxation, it has no effect on the course of MS. A 1998 study investigated the effect of massage in people with MS on:

  • relief of anxiety and depression
  • improvement in mood, self-esteem and body image
  • increased ambulation and improved physical and social functioning.

The study used self-reports by the participants and found that, at the end of a five-week period, physical and social activity had improved in the people receiving massage. Those in the massage group also reported a decrease in depression. There was, however, no improvement in grip strength and only marginal improvement in ambulation.

Finding a qualified massage therapist

Most states (besides Vermont) also have licensing programs for massage therapists. Additional information can be obtained from your state licensing board.

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, immune-mediated disorder. That means the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body that are vital to everyday function. The protective coverings of nerve cells are damaged, which leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal cord.

MS is a disease with unpredictable symptoms that can vary in intensity. While some people experience fatigue and numbness, severe cases of MS can cause paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function.

Common early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) include:

  • vision problems
  • tingling and numbness
  • pains and spasms
  • weakness or fatigue
  • balance problems or dizziness
  • bladder issues
  • sexual dysfunction
  • cognitive problems

More information: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS

Jolita Brilliant, Brilliant Massage Therapy,

Burlington, Vermont

Oncology Massage Therapy