Massage Therapy & Multiple Sclerosis

Massage Therapy Can Be Effective in Reducing Pain for Those with MS

Research on the benefits of massage therapy for various types of pain continues to grow. Results of a pilot study published in December showed significant benefits of regular massage over six weeks to reduce pain, fatigue and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)1. The new study reinforces older studies2, 3, 4, 5 on the value of massage for those with MS and adds to a growing body of research on how massage can ease a variety of types of pain.

“A meta-analysis in 2016 of recent research shined a light on the efficacy of massage therapy for various types of pain6,” says American Massage Therapy Association President Nathan Nordstrom. “This new study is another piece in the picture of how massage therapy can be used as a non-pharmacologic approach to pain relief.”

Pain, fatigue and spasticity are common symptoms of MS and it is reported that one third of people with the disease seek massage therapy as an adjunct to their conventional treatments7, 8. This new research goes beyond previous studies on how massage therapy improved quality of life for these patients and focused on symptom management. It is another area of symptom management where massage therapy is showing positive outcomes to ease pain.

Related: MS: Fighting Back With Massage | 3.5 Credit Hours

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1. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2016 Dec 9;9(4):4-13. eCollection 2016. Impact of Massage Therapy on Fatigue, Pain, and Spasticity in People with Multiple Sclerosis: a Pilot Study. Backus D, Manella C, Bender A, Sweatman M.
2. Field T. Massage therapy research review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Aug;24:19-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.04.005. Review.
3. Finch P, Bessonnette S. A pragmatic investigation into the effects of massage therapy on the self efficacy of multiple sclerosis clients. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2014 Jan;18(1):11-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 May 13.
4. Schroeder B, Doig J, Premkumar K. The effects of massage therapy on multiple sclerosis patients' quality of life and leg function. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:640916. doi: 10.1155/2014/640916.
5. Esmonde L, Long AF. Complementary therapy use by persons with multiple sclerosis: benefits and research priorities. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008 Aug;14(3):176-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2008.03.001.
6. Crawford C, Boyd C, Paat C, et al. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations – A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part I, Patients Experiencing Pain in the General Population. Pain Medicine, first published online: 10 May 2016.
7. Shakespeare DT, Boggild M, Young C. Anti-spasticity agents for multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(4):CD001332. [PubMed]
8. Brouwer B, de Andrade VS. The effects of slow stroking on spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Physiother Theory Pract. 1995;11(1):13–21. doi: 10.3109/09593989509022393. [Cross Ref].

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