By Melissa, LMT
Former Licensed Massage Therapist at Peaceful Spirit Massage & Wellness Centers
A diagnosis of lupus can be devastating for anyone but massage can help. Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
People diagnosed with Lupus experience flare ups in which systems can become much worse, even life-threatening. There are also times of remission when symptoms will not be as severe. Learning to live with Lupus can be challenging but staying on top of your symptoms and finding a strong support system can help you deal with the day to day challenges of this disease.
Massage can help those living with Lupus by increasing pain relieving endorphins. This can help with the aches and pains associated with Lupus. Emotional and physical strain on the body can cause a person to “tense up” their muscles. Sometimes we are even unaware of this tension. Often the tension remains even after the stressful moment has past. Massage therapy can help a client with Lupus return there muscle to a relaxed and balanced state.
Massage can be beneficial to circulation and other bodily systems that may be affected by lupus, including the kidneys, according to the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). Massage can help feed the tissues oxygen and nutrients which can help a client's organs function better.
Stress can be a major trigger for flare ups of Lupus symptoms. Healthy caring touch can help decrease stress for a Lupus patient and in turn help them cope with symptoms better. Massage helps a client to access the parasympathetic state of their nervous system. This is the healing state and you body can repair and recharge. The nerves of the parasympathetic state stimulate digestion, the immune system and the eliminative organs. The spring 2005 issue of "Lupus Now" magazine explains that some complementary therapies, like massage, give patients the boost they need to manage their condition more effectively because they are more relaxed.
It is important when talking with your massage therapist to clearly communicate your symptoms. Treatments can be adjusted as needed for you comfort. It is also important to have your doctor’s approval before getting massage. It is up to the client, but giving your massage therapist written consent to talk with your doctor can help ensure you are getting the most appropriate treatments.
Treatments that can be helpful to the Lupus client when they are in remission are Deep tissue, Stretching, Reflexology, Shiatsu, Swedish Massage and Trigger Point Therapy. Lymphatic drainage and energy work can be used while client is in remission or when they are having a flare-up. This is in no way intended to be a complete list but a brief list of supportive therapies.