Massage therapy isn’t a substitute for your regular multiple sclerosis treatment, but it can help relieve muscle spasms, improve circulation, alleviate pain and reduce anxiety.
The complementary treatment has been a staple of medical practice for generations, touted for its stress-busting abilities, which can have a powerful effect on health. Patients who received stress management sessions for six months had less evidence of brain disease than control groups, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.
“Don't expect massage therapy to cure your MS. It is not meant to be a treatment or to have any lasting effects, but it can improve your mood and your quality of life," says Salif Bishop, LMT, a licensed clinical massage therapist who treats patients with MS at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
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For patients in need of stress reduction Bishop suggests Swedish massages, which use light pressure and long strokes. Acupressure is also an option. The therapy is similar to the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture, but without the needles and may be combined with massage to target specific areas of the body that are tight or painful.
While the advantages of massage therapy can be significant, Angelo Papachristos, a physiotherapist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, cautions patients to keep their expectations reasonable.
“If you have MS and you want to try massage therapy, you should know that it is not a substitute for other types of physical therapy,” Papachristos says. “You may still need therapy to work on strength, conditioning, and flexibility.”
“Massage is a passive therapy, which is great for relaxation and stress reduction, but if you want to make any real changes, you need active therapy also,” he adds.
Make sure to check with your doctor before starting massage therapy, especially if you have had an edema, osteoporosis, liver or spleen enlargement, a recent injury or are pregnant. For more information, check out the Feldenkrais Guild of North America, and the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
"Get a Massage to Reduce MS Symptoms" originally appeared on Everyday Health.