Massage Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)


When most people think of massage they think relaxation, and relief of aches and pains. But did you know that massage is a wonderful complementary therapy for those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis?

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system in which the body attacks the covering of the nerves (called the myelin sheath) as well as the nerve fibers in the brain, optic nerves and spinal column. This disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. In many MS patients, these attacks occur in “flares” and then go into remission. For some MS sufferers, the attack never stops.

These attacks are damaging and debilitating. As the body tries to heal itself, there can be scars left behind that can cause many problems, including cognitive decline and mood disorders. Other issues may involve the muscles. If the muscles cannot get the signals from the brain efficiently, MS patients may experience lack of coordination, trouble walking and maintaining balance,, muscle rigidity/spasm, difficulty with activities of daily living (feeding, bathing, and dressing oneself) and they may feel tired, and in pain.

How Can Massage Help?

While massage does help a patient with MS to relax, there are even more benefits. MS patients who receive massage have shown reduced spasticity and improved range of motion, improved circulation, increased muscle and joint flexibility and of course, reduction of pain. A 2009 study reported that after ten weeks of treatment, MS patient participants experienced up to 50% lower pain levels for the next three months. Reduction of stress is also an important benefit, as studies show that it can help improve quality of life.

Through the use of Swedish massage techniques, MS patients experience an increase in blood flow. The improved circulation aids in restoring muscle tone and reducing spasticity, allowing the muscles to relax. Muscle relaxation helps with pain relief, healing, and stress relief.

Massage therapy is most beneficial for those in the early stages of the disease as in the later stages, muscle rigidity is more difficult to reverse. While it is considered safe in most cases, If you are considering massage therapy as a component of your MS treatment, consult with your doctor. There are a few instances when massage may be contraindicated. These include times when you are experiencing a flare and if you are experiencing neuropathy.

If you are suffering from MS and feel that massage therapy may be beneficial to you, we’d love to help. Our medical massage therapists are highly trained and have experience working with MS patients. Please contact us to discuss how we can help provide relief. Call (212) 472-4772 for more information.

Kristin Sewell