What is massage therapy?
Massage is a technique used to decrease muscle pain and stiffness by rubbing, pressing and kneading muscles. The history of message dates back to 500 BCE when the ancient Greeks, Egyptian and Chinese used this form of therapy to treat “energy” paths that cause illness and effect well-being. Message has gained acceptance in traditional Medicine as a healing technique as it moves from the gym to the medical spa, rehabilitation and other healthcare settings.
Different forms of massage.
There are many different massage techniques. Some focused on relaxation and stress reduction while others focus on muscle and deep tissue release. Swedish massage is a common form of message that applies long flowing strokes to aid muscle and body relaxation. Deep tissue massage uses strong pressure to relieve tension in deep tissues and myofascial release is thought to relieve tension in muscle fascia the connective coating around muscle.
Some forms of message use hot/cold packs, aroma therapy and music to further enhance the relaxing effect. Eastern medicine has introduced techniques such as acupressure, an ancient practice that applies focal pressure to specific points in the body, known as “Tsubo”, similar to acupuncture.
The benefits of massage therapy are many.
Massage does more than ease the pain or tightness of muscles. It is a healing art that promotes relaxation and stress reduction so important to general well-being for people with Parkinson’s. Some find it helpful as a supplement to treatment for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Direct pressure and massage improves tissue and joint movement resulting in increased flexibility or range of motion in joints. This may be especially helpful for shoulder, neck, back and leg stiffness that can occur not only from Parkinson’s but also from arthritis, building shoulder tension from stress and from the many hours of sitting at a desk or using a computer. Massage can also help pain due to muscle rigidity and over use.
Caution for Parkinson’s.
Although massage helps relax your mind and body there are some precautions you must take. You may want to dopy this page to share with your therapist.
- Deep tissue or aggressive massage should be avoided in people with dystonia. Very aggressive message and muscle stretching may actually worsen dystonia and related pain. Very gentle massage techniques such as Lymphatic Drainage, Trager and others should be used on muscle areas with dystonia.
- Avoid body positions that cause pain. For instance, work with your therapists to find a comfortable position if you have pain when you lie on your abdomen or turn your head to one side.
- People with DBS should avoid massage in the head neck and upper anterior chest as their wires and batteries are fragile and can fracture with applied pressure.
- Be sure to take your time and get up slowly after a massage as its relaxing effect can also lower heart rate. This can cause lightheadedness when standing especially if you suffer from low blood pressure.
- If you suffer from lightheadedness or dizziness tell your therapist. Certain procedures can help reduce lightheadedness after a message including
- Elevating your heal rather than lying flat
- Transition from one position to the next slowly, especially when sitting up
- Sit and drink water or other beverage when you are finished rather than rushing out the door.
How does it work?
It is not entirely clear how massage therapy works. Research suggests that massage may increase activity in our parasympathetic nervous system turning off the fight or flight signals our body produces in times of stress (See Relaxation Response). Massage therapy may also improve lymph flow and blood circulation. Massage Therapy for Parkinson’s has been researched and shown to be of benefit to those symptoms that tend to cause the most daily problems as well as stress management relief for daily coping with Parkinson Disease lifestyle.
How do I find a Message Therapist?
There are over 100,000 Message therapists in the US. Message therapists are certified professional trained in delivering massage as a healing technique. Due to your unique concerns with Parkinson’s it is helpful to search for a therapist trained in medical massage rather than a spa message therapist.
Look for the following credentials to help you find a qualified massage therapist. Check to see if your therapist’s school training meets the requirements for accreditation by the Commission of Massage Therapy, www.COMTA.org. To be certified by The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, a massage therapist must have over 500 hours of instruction and successfully pass a qualifying examination, www.NCBTMB.org . Most states also require state certification/Licensing insuring the appropriate training and conduct. Be sure to also ask your therapist for their association membership and coverage of their business Professional and General Liability Insurance. Ask your Massage therapist if they have treated others with PD, other Neurologic conditions such as stroke and MS or chronic conditions such as arthritis. Although this does not assure competence it at least identifies those therapists in tune with the needs of individuals with chronic illness and physical disabilities.
Check with your doctor or healthcare provider before beginning massage therapy. Be sure to ask about any cautions or concerns they may have. Ask your doctor for a referral to a massage therapist. Check with your medical insurance provider as many insurance programs are now including massage therapy.
Also see Take a moment -to relax
to learn about other techniques that enhance our body's healing response and can help you relax.
David Engle, massage therapist at Evergreen Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Kirkland, WA.
Monique Giroux, MD Medical Director NWPF ad Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center, Kirkland WA