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Massage for Neuropathy

What’s the Best Massage for Neuropathy Pain?

Question:

As a diabetic, I suffer from neuropathy that is sometimes debilitating. I’ve tried drugs that offer some relief, but I’m reluctant to take pain killers. A woman in my diabetic support group recently discussed the improvements she’s had from massage therapy, and it sounds like something I’d like to try. What’s the best massage for neuropathy?

Answer:

Massage for neuropathy typically includes a combination of gentler Swedish massage techniques along with deeper pressure trigger point therapy and kneading of specified areas. Specific protocols are available to massage therapists to treat neuropathic conditions.[1]

While more research needs to be done, the research on massage therapy to relieve pain is promising.[2] A case report found that an individual with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy responded well to massage therapy and experienced a significant reduction in pain. That report has led to an expanded study funded by the Massage Therapy Foundation to evaluate the effects of massage therapy on neuropathy.[3]

In addition to pain relief, regular massage therapy can lessen your anxiety and lower your stress levels, as well as increasing the flexibility and range of motion of your joints.[4] You’ll likely find you’re more relaxed after a massage as well, which can improve your sleep patterns as well as your overall quality of life.[5]

As you likely know, neuropathy can result in hypersensitivity to touch, which may mean that massage is painful and difficult, at least at first. Choose a massage therapist who has experience working with neuropathy patients. The typical treatment plan involves gradually increasing pressure over the course of several sessions.[6]

The Neuropathy Treatment Group recommends a 60-minute massage therapy session once a week for the duration of the time you experience symptoms of neuropathy.[7] Talk to your regular doctor about massage for your neuropathy before you schedule your first session, and make sure you continue to follow your standard treatment plan. Use massage therapy to supplement, rather than replace, your existing treatments.

It’s important to be open about your medical history and condition with your massage therapist. Provide them as much detail as possible about your neuropathy and the pain you experience so they can adjust their protocol accordingly to accommodate your needs. If you have fragile tissues due to vascular disfunction, let them know. Friction could cause vascular damage and bruising. Friction also should be avoided in any areas that are swollen. When you start, you may be unable to handle a complete 60-minute session.[8] If you break up your sessions into shorter sessions, it may take longer for you to achieve benefits.

References:

[1] Massage Today: “A Massage Protocol for Peripheral Neuropathy” http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14537

[2] Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: “Peripheral Neuropathy” http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/2212/Peripheral-Neuropathy

[3] Id.

[4] The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy: “Massage for Neuropathy” https://www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/integrative-therapies/massage/

[5] Id.

[6] Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: “Peripheral Neuropathy” http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/2212/Peripheral-Neuropathy

[7] Neuropathy Treatment Group: “Massage Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy” http://www.neuropathytreatmentgroup.com/massage-treatment-for-peripheral-neuropathy/

[8] American Diabetes Association Diabetes Spectrum: “Is Massage Useful in the Management of Diabetes? A Systematic Review” http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/4/218

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