A Guide to Massage for Parkinson’s
By Lubna Sheikh on 25th April 2020
Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative condition that attacks the central nervous system. It kills the nerve cells which are located in the middle area of the brain, specifically the cells that produce dopamine.
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The area of the brain known as the basal ganglia which is responsible for voluntary movement is affected and this causes many of the main signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s. The average onset of Parkinson’s is around age 60.
Massage and Parkinson’s
Massage for Parkinson’s can be very effective; efficient in muscle relaxation and relieving tension, preventing muscle spasms, cramps and boosting the blood circulation processes. 
It has been long recognized that massage therapy can benefit people who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease. Massage can alleviate muscle and joint stiffness as long as the client has some sensation in the area of their body that is being massaged.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s?
The main signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s are often not very noticeable when they first commence. After some progression, there are unmistakable signs and symptoms that start to appear and they include:
- Tremor: This movement starts in one limb, move to the other and then spread down to the feet. The person may also experience many involuntary movements
- Impaired posture and balance: The person may have a stooped posture and experience problems with balance which can become hazardous and cause numerous falls
- Speech changes: The person would begin to slur, speak softly (so that it is hard to hear them) and their tone can become monotone without inflection
- Loss of automatic movements: The ability for unconscious movements begins to decrease including smiling, blinking and arm movement during walking
- Muscle Rigidity: Muscles become stiff and limit the range of movement, making movement painful and slow
Benefits of Massage Therapy for Sufferers of Parkinson’s
The degenerative process of Parkinson’s can be delayed through the practice of systematic physical exercises. There are countless benefits to massage for Parkinson’s including that it slows the progress of the disease from one stage to the next.
Regular massage can help to increase the quality of life of a Parkinson’s sufferer to that they are able to more easily perform their daily activities. With massage therapy, people who suffer from pain and loss of movement can regain some of their motivation to live.
A regular massage can also be a source of socialization when a patient is isolated. The exercise that is associated with the massage can help to release endorphins so that the patient feels euphoria and pleasure.
Parkinson’s Disease – Treatment Plan and Goals
When a patient is being treated with massage therapy for Parkinson’s Disease there is a variety of things that should be considered including:
The position of the patient needs to be adjusted to accord with the degree of rigidity of the patient. If the patient is extremely rigid then there will be fewer changes in position. Massage treatment should be performed using a lot of content for a relaxation style massage.
This will help the patient to relax and may increase their range of motion as well. If it is noted that a patient has edema, then MLD or Manual Lymphatic Drainage should be performed.
What can a Parkinson’s Sufferer Expect from Massage?
Parkinson’s Disease can take its toll on a person who is suffering from the disease. Some of the main benefits include a reduced perception of pain due to the release of endorphins, less anxiety and related fatigue, some relief from muscle rigidity and cramping and improved digestion and sleep. The patient may also experience lowered stress, moodiness and depression.
How Does Massage for Parkinson’s Work?
The incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the United States is estimated at 1 million, with an additional 50,000 patients being diagnosed every year. While it is generally considered a disease of those between 50 and 79 years of age, incidence below the age of 40 is rapidly increasing and epidemiologists suspect environmental influences are playing a part in this phenomenon. 
If muscle balance is not in control, flexors can take over, which is a similar result as the muscle freezing after a stroke occurs. Ranges of motion exercises are very important with the process of relating the muscles that control the joints.
If resistance is encountered, then force should not be used, gentle coercion is instead the process to be followed. Patients who have had joint replacement should not be subjected to a range of motion exercises. The massage therapist works with the patient to massage and loosen where possible and regain some flexibility by working the muscles.
The origins of the scaleni are located deep in a network of blood vessels, connective tissues and nerves. Loosening up neck muscles should occur as a unit when massage is undertaken. Most of the symptoms of Parkinson’s involve musculature. It is important to be sensitive to the needs of the patient and work slowly.
Things to Remember About Massage for Parkinson’s
Research into massage for Parkinson’s proves that the therapy can alleviate pains associated with muscle and joint stiffness, which are common symptoms of the disease. It is crucial that the client can feel sensation and touch in the area that is being worked on.
This is where communication is key, and our therapists will ensure that all safety precautions have been followed before beginning the session. 
However, it is highly important to always bear in mind the following:
- Parkinson’s is a dysfunction in the central nervous system and massage alone cannot fix this malady
- It is important to work alongside the client’s doctor to gauge whether this practice is safe, and to discuss any further medication needed
- We have taken extra precautionary methods involving the getting on and off of the massage bed. We understand that Parkinson’s is a disease characterised by involuntary movement, and we will work with clients and their carers to ensure the transition onto the bed is fully safe.
What Does The Research Say?
In a 2002 study conducted by a research institute at the University of Miami and a team from its neurology department, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were reduced by massage therapy. The subject cases underwent bi-weekly massages, over a period of five weeks.
They reported a boost in their day-to-day functioning, enhanced quality of sleep, and a reduction in their stress level hormones. The massage received in this study included focusing on the buttocks, back, thighs, ribs, feet and calves, forearms, hands, upper arms, face, neck, and head.
Leaders of this study recorded that there was a definite enhancement in the subject’s abilities to sleep, function, and in their overall mood.
Contact Us Now For a Massage in London
Contact us on 07904 786 888 for a massage tailored to your individual needs and requirements. Our expert team of staff will conduct a detailed assessment before the treatment, to help decide what benefits you would like to reap from the massage.
We look forward to hearing from you through the phone or through our online form.
About the author of this article
My name is Lubna and I am a Holistic Food Coach, Natural Chef, Massage Specialist & Yoga teacher. I am passionate about your health and well-being. Now, health and well-being is my life! I practice yoga every morning. I attend and support my community fitness centre and I have recently learned how to swim.