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More on Massage and Disability

13 Dec 2017

In a recent post we introduced the topic of massage therapy for those who are disabled, and that includes those with developmental issues. (If you haven’t read that prior article, click here to read it first.) In this post we’d like to talk specifically about how those with physical disabilities can benefit from regular therapeutic massage.

The Benefits of Massage for the Physically Disabled

Regardless of the cause – whether disease or injury – those who are physically disabled have many musculoskeletal issues, and significant, chronic pain is common. Massage therapy can play a big role in improving quality of life for those who suffer from physical disabilities because it has been shown to have a positive effect in those areas.

  • Pain management is one of the top reasons people seek out regular therapeutic massage, and numerous research studies have indicated its effectiveness. Simply living with less pain brings about improved life quality.
  • Massage therapy can counteract some of the effects that lack of movement brings about, including muscle stiffness, atrophy, and limited range of motion. While it can’t offer a promise of healing for paralysis, it may releave muscle stiffness and even improve function. Increased muscle flexibility and range of motion can also be realized.
  • Simply by virtue of inadequate physical movements, the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems are impaired. Among other things, that can cause swelling (edema) in the extremities, and reduced lymph movement results in reduced immune function. Massage therapy has been shown to improve circulation of bodily fluids, and so it can have both cardiovascular and immune system benefits.
  • Those who are physically disabled may deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. There is plenty of scientific evidence gleaned through research studies that show massage is beneficial for addressing these mental and emotional issues as well.

Tips for Bodywork Therapists with Physically Disabled Clients

Depending on the type and severity of the physical disability, a massage therapist working with a disabled client will need to adapt techniques.

  • The first thing you should know is that it’s important to work with the client’s primary doctor. There may be conditions you need to be aware of, and in rare cases particular types of massage may even be contraindicated.
  • Get a list of current medications; many have side effects you should know about.
  • For those therapists who do not desire to have a physical clinic or office, providing in-home massage therapy for the physically disabled might be a good answer.
  • Lack of mobility may require an adaptation in positioning.  Chair massage or side position massage may be more appropriate. And you may require assistance moving the client on and off the massage table.
  • Keep a stash of extra bolsters of various shapes and pillows both for comfort and positioning.
  • Educate yourself about your client’s disability and any associated health issues. For example, have a plan for dealing with possible seizures or other situations that may arise during a massage therapy session.

With the proper planning, a massage therapist has a terrific opportunity to offer compassionate touch to those who are disabled. While you can’t take away the disability, you can offer them the hope of an improved lifestyle in terms of less pain, better sleep, muscle flexibility, improved skin tone, and more.

At our Minneapolis massage school, we endeavor to prepare our students to provide the benefits of therapeutic massage to clients with a wide variety of needs. Specific techniques for special populations such as the physically disabled are included in many of our courses, and from time to time they are even the subject of our continuing education courses for bodywork professionals.  

 

 

 

 

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