Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2016

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. The most common symptoms are overwhelming fatigue, visual disturbances, altered sensation, and difficulties with mobility. Approximately 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide. 1 Exact figures are difficult to calculate because MS symptoms can be nearly invisible and MS is not a disease with mandatory government reporting. Treatment of MS is frequently sought through disease-modifying medications along with other medications for symptom relief. Massage therapy is one of the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine treatments. However, very little is known about the benefits of massage therapy for MS. In a 2014 study, Brittany Schroeder and a team of researchers evaluated the effects of massage therapy on quality of life and leg function in individuals with MS. 2 Twenty-four Canadian subjects who had a moderate disability score (between 3.5 and 7.0 out of 10 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale) enrolled in the study. Potential subjects were excluded due to chest pain (unstable angina) or heart attack during the previous month, high blood pressure, or inability to attend regular massage appointments. Eighteen of the 24 subjects SOMATIC RESEARCH education Massage Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis By Jerrilyn Cambron 44 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j a n u a r y / f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 6 previously used massage, and therefore had some experience with this form of care. Subjects were initially randomized to one of two groups. Group 1 received 45-minute whole-body Swedish massages twice a week for four weeks. Prior to the start of the study, the massage therapists practiced the standardized massage routine, and the routine was then posted at the head of the massage table during the study as a reminder for the therapists. The four weeks of massage sessions were followed by four weeks of twice weekly rest (no care) as a comparative control. Group 2 started with four weeks of rest two times a week, and then received twice weekly massage therapy during the second four weeks (weeks five through eight). The crossover of patients from massage therapy to no care or from no care to massage therapy allowed data to be collected from all 24 subjects in the no care and the massage care situations. In other words, subjects served as their own control. Several outcome measures were collected within this study. Immediately after each massage session, the subject completed a brief questionnaire to determine the degree of similarity between each treatment. The massage therapist also completed a brief questionnaire defining the duration of treatment and observed changes in the subjects. On a weekly basis, the subjects completed a three-question health assessment to log any stressors that may have aggravated their MS symptoms. Based on these measures, there were no reported differences in the massage technique or duration. There were also no changes in self- reported health status throughout the study between the two groups. Subjects also completed three other outcome measures at the start of the study, the end of four weeks, and the end of eight weeks. First, a six-minute walk test (6MWT) was completed to determine exercise capacity as a measure of leg function. Second, the Hamburg Quality of Life Questionnaire in Multiple Sclerosis (HAQUA MS) survey was used to measure different aspects of physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Finally, the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) was used to collect and measure the level of disability. THE FINDINGS No statistically significant changes were found in the 6MWT, HAQUA MS, or EDSS measures due to massage treatment when compared to rest. However, the subjects in group 1 who had worse disease severity had significantly better walking distances on the 6MWT and also better HAQUA MS scores after four weeks of massage, demonstrating that massage may be of more benefit to MS

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