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Massage Therapy and the Disabled: The Basics

11 Dec 2017

Everyone can benefit from massage therapy because it has so many good effects, but for certain special needs groups, it has specific things it can offer. There has been plenty of solid research done that supports these claims for people in general.

One of those special populations is the disabled. Some of the benefits that anyone can experience that are of special significance for the disabled include:

  • Pain management
  • Sleep support
  • Improvement in range of motion and flexibility
  • Helping with anxiety and depression
  • Immune system boost
  • Improved circulation of blood and lymph
  • Edema reduction

Massage and the Physically Disabled

In order to understand how massage can benefit those who are physically disabled, it helps to consider some of the major issues.

Often physical disabilities – whether genetic, birth defects, or as a result of an accident or injury – bring about muscular impairment, ranging in degree from muscle tremors and reduced coordination all the way to rigidity or even paralysis. (Estimates are that paralysis affects over 260,000 Americans.)

Those confined to bed or a wheelchair may develop muscle atrophy. Loss of movement can also produce reduced circulation, which in turn brings about a whole host of other issues, including those affecting the skin, reducing function of the immune system, or impairing breathing.

Massage and the Developmentally Disabled

A second category of disability includes those who are developmentally disabled, and those who may have emotional and/or behavioral issues. (Sometimes those physically disabled may have developmental disabilities as well.)

A variety of conditions may affect mental and emotional development. These include the autism spectrum, attention deficit conditions, fetal alcohol syndrome, and more. The most common problems those in the developmentally disabled group exhibit are anxiety, high stress levels, and depression. And like the general population, this special needs group can benefit from therapeutic massage.

This post is the first in our series on massage therapy and the disabled. Watch for upcoming posts on tips for bodywork professionals working with the disabled, as well as benefits for both developmentally and physically disabled individuals. If you are a massage therapist who desires to work with the disabled, you may be interested in our Advanced Side Position Massage class coming to our Minneapolis massage school in February of 2018. Often those with physical disabilities have position restrictions (such as those confined to bed), and the skills you will learn in this continuing education class can be helpful.  Click here for more details.  









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