Massage can be supportive during the subacute or remission stages of Multiple Sclerosis.
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that attacks the myelin sheaths around both motor and sensory neurons (nerves) leading to paralysis.
The myelin sheath is a layer of proteins that cover the outside of nerves. Multiple Sclerosis replaces this protective covering with scar tissue, leading to lack of motor control and feeling along the nerve pathway. Eventually, this loss of sensation leads to complete paralysis of the affected muscles.
MS affects caucasian populations nearly twice as often as any other ethnic group. Most of the time, diagnosis is made between the ages of 20 and 40. Younger women are diagnosed twice as often as men, but in older populations, there is little difference in gender diagnosis rates.
Often considered an autoimmune disease, the exact cause of MS is unknown.
Inflammation – Remission Cycle
This debilitating disease often works in cycles of active inflammation followed by periods of remission. During inflammation flares, the myelin sheaths are actively attacked and are replaced by scar tissue, a process known as sclerosis. When in remission, some myelin regenerates.
This cycle can lead to periods in which motor control and sensation is lost and then regained. Chronic inflammatory periods can lead to complete paralysis and loss of muscular function.
While there have been many studies and successes in slowing the progression of the disease, there is no known cure.
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
MS has several symptoms that can vary from patient to patient. Some common symptoms include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Eye pain
- Tremors or spastic movements
- Loss of vision
- Sensation loss
- Loss of motor control
- Muscle spasms
- Urologic dysfunction, difficulty urinating or urinary incontinence
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cognitive function decline, especially short term memory and learning ability changes.
Diagnosis of MS
A physician, usually a neurologist, must make a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Doctors may use a combination of MRI, spinal taps, nerve conduction tests, and blood tests to make a definitive diagnosis.
There are several types of MS ranging from benign that only presents with one flare up in a lifetime and often does not have lasting effects, to malignant, which is rapidly progressive and often results in severe disability or death.
Massage for Multiple Sclerosis
Patients should seek the care of a massage therapist in addition to their primary healthcare team for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. Massage should not be received during active (acute) flare ups. During subacute, or remission periods, gentle massage should be performed. Range of motion exercises and light massage to restore circulation to muscles that have been affected by Multiple Sclerosis is recommended.
Great care by an experienced massage professionals must be taken to avoid triggering painful spasms.
Heat can often aggravate symptoms, so it is important to avoid heat therapy or especially warm rooms at all times.
Any body part in which sensation is not present should only be worked very gently. Energy work, including reflexology and light acupressure, should be used on these areas.
At all times, massage pressure should be kept within the client’s pain tolerance.
I have worked with many Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients in their homes and in hospitals or care facilities. A mobile massage session in greater Kansas City can remove the stress of a patient’s need to travel to a therapist.