East Bay Massage: Multiple Sclerosis

Massage for those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be key to managing symptoms and the promotion of well-being. Certain care must be taken to avoid overstimulation, and massage should be avoided at certain times altogether, but with an informed practitioner and recipient, massage can become an important part of the healthcare regime for those with MS. It is important to note that up to 70% of those diagnosed with MS also suffer from depression– a condition which is often improved with regular massage.

MS is often called “The Great Imitator” because symptoms often mimic other conditions. A diagnosis of MS is usually predicated on the presence of several different symptoms– there is no single test to concretely diagnose it. Generally, symptoms include but are not limited to weakness, muscle spasm, pins and needles, depression, fatigue, and digestive disturbances.

Believed to be an auto-immune disorder, the cells responsible for repairing the protective sheathing around nerves cease to be effective. The disorder works in cycles, during which the body attacks the myelin, or protective sheathing of the nerves. During these flare-ups, the body replaces myelin with scar tissue  (sclerosis = hardened scar). In severe flares, the neurons themselves may fall under attack. Depending on the progression, which is unpredictable, flare ups may occur frequently, or can even be separated by years.

Because this disease has acute and subacute phases, massage should only be performed in the subacute phase, or in between flares. Relaxation massage can help to calm the central nervous system. Work that stimulates the nervous system (very deep work or the use of heat) may cause painful muscle cramping and spasm. So long as these simple precautions are followed, massage is great for those with MS. Mobility within the tissues is promoted through massage, as is a great antidote to stress and depression.

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