Can Massage Help with Chronic Illness?

by Ariela Paulsen
Can Massage Help with Chronic Illness?

Living with a chronic illness isn’t easy, but there’s one thing that often makes it harder: chronic pain. The good news is, there are many ways to manage pain. This week is Everybody Deserves a Massage Week! Massage therapy has many well-documented benefits and one of which is pain reduction.

History of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy has a long history. China and India have been using this type of therapy as far back as 4,000 years ago. To this day, massage therapy is still a viable holistic option for people with chronic pain.

The Science behind Massage Therapy

Scientists have studied the effects of massage on the brain through the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG).

The brain has four different states:

  • Beta state – This is the typical brain state throughout the day (alert and wide awake). Our brain waves pulse from 14 to 30 times a second.
  • Alpha state – Often associated with mild relaxation. Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz) are present when your brain is idle or consciously practicing meditation.
  • Theta state – This occurs most often in sleep but are also dominant during deep meditation.
  • Delta state – Also known as the twilight state. This momentarily happens as you drift off to sleep and arise from deep sleep.

During a massage, brain waves slow down from the Beta state into the Alpha state. One study shows that a massage treatment can significantly decrease α and β waves.  Similar interactions are also seen on theta and delta rhythms. This indicates that a massage by a  professional technician can reduce tension and induce relaxation.

Massage Therapy and Chronic Illness

Improve Blood Circulation

If you have a PICC line, you’ve probably had to make adjustments to your daily life to keep it clean. This can often have a negative effect on posture and blood circulation.  Poor circulation is one of the many potential causes of muscle pain and tension. A good massage can improve blood circulation.

Regain Range of Motion

The pain that comes with chronic illness may hinder you from getting good exercise. As a result, you feel like your joints are stiffer. One of the many benefits of massage is that it can help you regain your range of motion.

Promote Good Sleep

Chronic illness can rob you of sleep. It is often difficult to fall asleep when there’s a dull or acute pain in your body. Lack of good sleep affects your body’s healing process. A good massage can help you drift into deep sleep. The next time you find yourself tossing and turning at night, get a massage!

Reduce Cortisol Levels

Muscle therapy has a great effect on your brain chemistry. Massages naturally cause the secretion of several hormones related to pleasure and relaxation.

  • Serotonin – a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, controls our hunger and promotes sleep. It also promotes healing in damaged cell tissue.
  • Dopamine –  a neurotransmitter that regulates movement and emotional responses. A massage heightens dopamine concentration in our bodies, giving us that natural high that comes with eating chocolate or drinking a fine glass of wine.
  • Oxytocin – a neurotransmitter known to facilitate social bonding. Oxytocin is released during touch and when you feel safe.

These three hormones help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.  Cortisol weakens the activity of the immune system. It can also trigger hunger pangs and eating binges which may cause you to crave for unhealthy food.

Massage is Self-care

If you haven’t tried massage therapy, this might be a great opportunity to introduce this time-honored way of relaxing and healing your body.  There’s nothing quite like that snug feeling of being cared for and pampered. A massage is a welcome treat.

Remember, next week is  Everybody Deserves a Massage Week. Will you be getting a massage?

Want to share how massaged has helped you?  Join us in our Friends in the Fight Group to connect with our community. 

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Ben February 7, 2021 - 6:50 pm

I haven’ t had a massage for a while as I didn’t know how sore i’d be with my inflammation from lyme. But i’ve been feeling like it recently so I might give it a go again.

One thing that I found good was cranialsacral therapy, it’s interesting and very gentle but helps you to relax and basically ‘shake out’ and discharge trauma from your body which also helps healing. I have no idea what they’re doing in the session but when I had sessions it really helped.

Ariela Paulsen February 10, 2021 - 1:58 pm

Thanks for the tip!

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