Regular Massage Therapy Eases Pain and Fatigue of MS, Small Study Reports

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Regular massage therapy given people with multiple sclerosis (MS) significantly reduced their pain and fatigue, and helped to ease spasticity, a small pilot study reports. The results further support previous findings as to the benefits of massage in treating MS symptoms and improving patients’ quality of life.

The study, “Impact of Massage Therapy on Fatigue, Pain, and Spasticity in People with Multiple Sclerosis: a Pilot Study,” was published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

“A meta-analysis in 2016 of recent research shined a light on the efficacy of massage therapy for various types of pain,” Nathan Nordstrom, president of the American Massage Therapy Association, said in an association press release, referring to a study published in Pain Medicine. “This new study is another piece in the picture of how massage therapy can be used as a non-pharmacologic approach to pain relief.”

The non-randomized study, conducted in a nonprofit long-term care facility, enrolled 28 MS patients. Twenty-four completed all massage therapy sessions and outcome assessments. The researchers measured fatigue, pain and spasticity using widely accepted scales, and physical and mental health perceptions, both measures of life quality, were assessed through questionnaires.

A standardized massage therapy routine was given patients once a week for six weeks.

At the study’s end, researchers found a significant improvement in fatigue and pain measures and in patient-reported overall health. A significant correlation was also reported between those improvements, spasticity and perceptions of physical and mental health status.

“MT [massage therapy] as delivered in this study is a safe and beneficial intervention for management of fatigue and pain in people with MS,” the researchers concluded. “Decreasing fatigue and pain appears to correlate with improvement in quality of life, which is meaningful for people with MS who have a chronic disease resulting in long-term health care needs.”

About one-third of MS patients are thought to use massage as a supplement to conventional medicines for the disease.

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