Autoimmune Disorders and Massage: How We Can Help
Autoimmune diseases target the immune system, causing it to attack the body’s own cells and tissues instead of outside invaders. Some of the more common conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
Regardless of the type of autoimmune condition you or your loved one may suffer from, the symptoms can range from minor to quite debilitating and can include fatigue, pain, swelling, numbness, tingling in the hands/feet, sleep disturbance and much more.
Massage therapy can offer several potential benefits for individuals with autoimmune disorders including:
- Stress Reduction: Autoimmune disorders are often exacerbated by stress, which can trigger immune system responses. Massage therapy can help reduce stress and promote relaxation by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. This relaxation can help to alleviate stress-related symptoms and potentially improve the overall well-being of the individual.
- Pain Relief: Pain is one of the more prevalent issues related to autoimmune diseases. This is especially true for conditions like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks nerve endings and joint tissue. Massage can help target pain in the joints and muscles by reducing tension in the muscles and the complex web of myofascial tissues that surrounds the muscles.
- Improved Circulation: Massage therapy can enhance blood flow and lymphatic circulation which can potentially aid in the removal of metabolic waste products and toxins from the body.
- Enhanced Immune Function: While autoimmune disorders involve an overactive immune response, massage may help regulate and balance the immune system. Some studies suggest that massage therapy can affect the production of certain immune cells, potentially helping to improve immune system function. However, the research in this area is still limited.
- Aid Digestion; One often-overlooked manifestation of autoimmune disorders is hampered gastrointestinal processes. For instance, celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, causes diarrhea, vomit, and abdominal pain. Massage can improve digestion by helping the body produce digestive enzymes and can also help reduce constipation.
- Better Sleep: Massage can promote better sleep quality by relaxing the body and mind, leading to improved sleep patterns and overall well-being.
- Alleviation of Anxiety and Depression: Many individuals with autoimmune disorders experience anxiety and depression as a result of their condition. Massage therapy can help reduce these symptoms by promoting relaxation and reducing the release of stress hormones.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of massage therapy for autoimmune disorders can vary from person to person. Before pursuing massage therapy, individuals should consult with their healthcare provider to ensure it’s a safe and appropriate option for their specific condition.