Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable, and disabling condition autoimmune disorder involving the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. It is a demyelinating disease which means that the protective, myelin sheath of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. Multiple Sclerosis, also called MS, can have a variety of painful symptoms including muscle weakness, problems with sensation, and trouble with coordination.
Individuals with multiple sclerosis will often experience attacks of MS, in which they experience many or some new or damaging symptoms. In between attacks, also called relapses, individuals may have no symptoms or may have some lingering damage from a previous attack. The disease is progressive and many people with MS get worse over time. Medication is available to treat MS but it is not a cure and has many side effects.
Individuals with multiple sclerosis may also experience flare-ups of symptoms that last for less than 24 hours. These are not considered a true relapse but can still bring on unpleasant symptoms. Flare-ups are often in response to stress.
Massage is widely recognized as a complementary treatment for many diseases and conditions. Massage improves blood circulation, reduces stress, and promotes feelings of relaxation while reducing anxiety and depression. Multiple sclerosis flare-ups and relapses can be brought on by periods of stress so regular massage therapy may help relieve some of the stress associated with these attacks.
Multiple sclerosis can cause spasticity, which means involuntary and painful muscle contractions or unusual stiffness in muscles. Left untreated, spasticity can lead to difficulty walking or pressure sores for individuals who are wheelchair-bound. Massage can improve spasticity by enhancing the range of motion while also relaxing muscles. This can also help prevent the development of pressure sores, which are painful and dangerous skin wounds.
Massage is a well-proven method for relieving pain and individuals with multiple sclerosis often have many painful symptoms. Giving individuals with MS a chance to relax while also massaging painful areas can help relive anxiety and stress for the MS patient. A large scale research study following multiple sclerosis patients who received regular massage therapy demonstrated massage to be beneficial for relieving stress while also improving mood and self-esteem and an increase in ambulation and physical functioning.
Any person with multiple sclerosis should consult with their healthcare provider before beginning massage therapy to treat their symptoms. Patients with significant edema, or swelling as well as anyone with a pressure sore should not receive massage therapy. Patients with an additional condition such as pregnancy, cancer, or osteoporosis should also receive medical clearance before receiving massage therapy.
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