Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. The condition affects the central nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord and can cause a wide range of visible, invisible and cognitive symptoms.
In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath which not only protects but enables nerves to do their jobs. This leaves areas of scarring or plaques on the nerves, therefore disrupting their ability to carry impulses to and from the brain.
There are three main types of MS;
Visible symptoms of MS include loss of balance and dizziness, stiffness or spasms in the limbs, a tremor and speech problems. MS symptoms also include fatigue, pain, bladder and bowel problems, visual disturbances and difficulty swallowing. MS can also have an impact upon memory, thinking and emotions, as well as the emotional strain of dealing with the disease itself which can cause depression and anxiety.
How can Sports Massage help?
According to the MS trust, massage has been found to lower anxiety, improve mood, self-esteem, body image and image of disease symptoms. A recent study also found that hour-long, weekly massage sessions, over a 4-week period, improved self-efficacy and that regular treatments were required to maintain these changes (effects appeared to wear off 4 weeks post treatment). Better self-efficacy is believed to improve well-being and ability to cope with the stress of living with MS.
As for physical symptoms, massage may help to reduce spasms by relaxing soft tissue structures. Massage can aid with pain management through mobilising tissue, reducing contractions and impacting upon the pain gate theory. Massage may also improve circulation and alter, even if only in the treatment, any sensory disturbances to the skin.
The MS Society runs a free MS Helpline, Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm, providing emotional support and information to anyone living with the condition. They also offer a direct messaging service through Facebook that can be accessed via https://www.mssociety.org.uk/care-and-support/ms-helpline
Clinical Medicine, 9th Edition