Massage Therapy & Parkinson

The benefits of massage therapy have long been recognized by people with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease typically causes muscle stiffness and rigidity, bodywork’s ability to alleviate joint and muscle stiffness makes it a logical choice.

If the client has sensation in the area being worked on, it is safe for bodywork.

IMPORTANT: Communicating with a client throughout a bodywork session will ensure a positive experience.

However, before working with a Parkinson’s client, bodyworkers must understand the following:

  • Parkinson’s disease is a CNS dysfunction (Nervous System Dysfunction) and will not be completely resolved with bodywork alone.
  • Work in cooperation with a client’s primary physician, as massage may impact the need for antidepressants and other medication.
  • Since uncontrolled movement is characteristic of this disease, getting on and off a massage table may pose safety issues.
  • Bodyworkers must predict this with Parkinson’s clients and either improvise or take extra cautionary measures to ensure the client’s safety.

Research

According to a 2002 study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, along with staff from the university’s neurology department and Duke University’s pharmacology department, Parkinson’s disease symptoms are reduced by massage therapy.

In this study, the group of adults with Parkinson’s disease who received two massages a week for five weeks experienced improved daily functioning, increased quality of sleep and decreased stress-hormone levels.

The massage consisted of 15 minutes in the prone position, focusing on the back, buttocks, ribs, thighs, calves, and feet; and 15 minutes in the supine position, focusing on the thighs, lower legs, feet, hands, forearms, upper arms, neck, face, and head.

The study’s authors reported, “These findings suggest that massage therapy enhances functioning in progressive or degenerative central nervous system disorders or conditions.”

While several different massage modalities have been quantifiably researched in the context of Parkinson’s, including Trager, Alexander Technique and Swedish massage, all modalities report improvement in function, from the reduction of rigidity and improvement of sleep to the reduction of tremor and increase of daily activity stamina.

Don’t be afraid of working with clients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The pathology of this condition and the success reported with massage therapy make physical manipulation of the musculoskeletal system an ideal Parkinson’s management component.

Being familiar with this disease and welcoming those affected can bring an enormous amount of satisfaction to any compassionate bodyworker.

Adding my Myofascial Release techniques may be suited and received well by many clients.

Adding vibration therapy through the therapists’ hand can help many effected areas because of the increased blood flow. Not advised to use a massage unit directly to the client without using the unity on the therapist’s hand.

 

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