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Does massage therapy help for stroke rehabilitation?

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted. (healthdirect.gov.au)

stroke-remedial-massage-tension-release-melbourne picture from Mayfield clinic

 

When a person suffers a stroke, they may experience levels of paralysis in almost any skeletal muscle; as a result, they can experience weakness, stiffness, problems with positioning, balance and posture, and resulting discomfort.

Stroke risk increases with age, but stroke in young people, including infants, children, adolescents and young adults, does happen. In general, however, most experts consider a young stroke age to be under 45. [1]

Massage therapy can augment other physical therapies (such as physiotherapy) for stroke patients to address symptoms.  Clients should consult with their treating doctors as to whether massage therapy is suitable in their circumstances.

It is very important that massage treatment starts as soon as feasible for a quick recovery.

In convalescence, it is necessary to stimulate not only the blood and lymphatic circulation, but also to act on the skin, subcutaneous cellular tissue and muscle mass.

Remedial and relaxation massage may benefit stroke patients in various ways:

  • Reduced stiffness/improved mobility and posture
  • Improved strength
  • Reduced pain and cramping
  • Improved limb circulation
  • Improved mood
  • Increased cellular exchange
  • Increased endorphins serotonin and dopamine
  • Increased tissue elasticity

Different techniques are used to address to each problem.

Specific techniques often used include:

Muscle Energy Technique (MET)

A form of osteopathic manipulative diagnosis and treatment in which the patient’s muscles are actively used on request, from a precisely controlled position, in a specific direction, and against a distinctly executed physician counterforce. [2]

Positional Release Technique (PRT)

A bodywork modality using passive positioning of bones and joints, intended to reset proprioceptors and establish a more functional level of tone and resistance.[3]

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

This stretching technique utilized to improve muscle elasticity and range of muscle motion has been shown to have a positive effect on active and passive range of motions.[4]

Remedial massage techniques can be applied to problem areas to reduce stiffness and address contractions in specific muscles to improve range of movement.  This may assist with improved mobility and improve the patient’s posture.

The application of MET (an active technique that includes the participation of the client) and PNF may improve strength in weakened areas.

Massage to areas affected by stroke may reduce pain and cramping by improving flexibility and positioning.

The moment of its initiation and the type of massage to be used must be well regulated. If the intervention is premature, it will be more harmful than beneficial; if it is too soft and prolonged, it will cause or increase weakness of the muscle; if it is of great intensity, it will produce muscular fatigue, precisely what must be avoided.

Stroke patients may experience various symptoms in affected areas due to changes in circulation.  Massage may improve circulation and reduce these symptoms, such as limbs feeling cold.

Any sufferer of neuromotor condition can be benefit physically and psychologically with a remedial massage therapy, which may also assist with improving mood and overall energy levels.

[1] A study published in October 2012 in the journal Neurology

[2] Chaitow, Leon (2013). Muscle Energy Techniques + Videos. Elsevier Science Health Science Division, 2013

[3] Glossary of Osteopathic Terminology” (PDF). American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. April 2009. p. 28. Retrieved 25 August 2012.

[4] Funk et al., 2003; Lucas and Koslow, 1984; Wallin et al., 1985

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