ALS Disease and Massage Therapy for Pain Relief

A Massage therapist working with clients diagnosed with ALS needs to be aware of the many problems associated with the disease and how massage therapy can have a positive effect for those clients. ALS is a motor dysfunction so movement, muscle tone and function all decline as the disease progresses.  Massage therapy or any other alternative therapy will not slow down or change how the disease progresses, but will have a positive impact on the comfort and mobility of the clients.

Sensations though stay intact, so your clients can feel the body massage and the pain relief that you offer, so while the muscle tone of the client will change, the ability to enjoy touch, and to experience relief from pain, cramps and discomfort will not change.

With the lose of muscle function will come loss of muscle tissue, and speech will also eventually be difficult and then impossible.  By providing home visit massage therapy, clients can continue to get treatments that provide relief from pain, cramping and swelling,  as well giving our clients nurturing touch, with all the mental and emotional benefits that provides.

10 things you need to remember when providing body massage for a client with ALS.

  1. Be committed– most of the time this is a long term relationship.  Lasting from your first session to when the client is no longer able to get massage, for me this has nearly always happened with end of life.  As the disease progresses communication becomes more and more difficult, and having continuity means you know what your client wants and likes.  As talking becomes more difficult, having a massage from a therapist that knows what you want is an incredible gift to a client.  As well as the people that love them. Clients with ALS disease and Massage therapy have relationships that can last from 3-5 years or even longer.
  2. Communicate Clearly– Ask lots of questions, and keep track of the answers.  Watch for non verbal clues.  This may not seem important when your client is moving, talking and mobile, but as your relationship continues this is the foundation of service.  Arrange for hand signals, even when the client can speak clearly, getting used to using these signals early in your relationship gets both the massage therapist and the client in the habit of communicating in this way, making it easier to adjust to the progression of the disease.
  3. Sensation is not affected– Although the use of muscles fades away, the sensation in the tissue is still intact.  This is part of the reason that ALS disease and Massage therapy are such a good fit, as mobility decreases, having treatments that just feel amazing becomes more and more important.

    als disease and massage therapy
    Pain relief is provided by a Massage therapy, using passive range of motion, the massage therapist is providing service in home for the safety and comfort of her client.
  4. Passive Range of motion– Move the limbs through well supported range of motion, this will help with pain relief, as well as circulation
  5. Pain relief – Both immobility and spasticity can cause deep muscle pain, and that can be relieved by massage therapy.  Work firmly, and slowly and get feedback from your client as to what felt great, not just during the treatment but for the days following.
  6. Relieves Swelling– With the lack of muscle movement, comes swelling in the legs and feet as lymphatic fluid pools in the legs, this cannot be treated with a water pill, but can very effectively be treated with massage.  Work gently towards the heart, much like moving toothpaste through the tube, and massage therapy can relieve this swelling.  If the client has a family member that would like to provide therapeutic touch between visits, this is a great technique to show them, as it is a gentle touch and provides amazing pain relief.

    als disease and massage therapy controling anxiety
    By providing gentle nurturing touch, a massage therapist can also provide some relief from the anxiety that goes with ALS
  7. Decreases AnxietyALS Disease and Massage Therapy are a beneficial match when it comes to anxiety.  Massage therapy releases hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, and others that produce feelings of well being, while also suppressing cortisol which is a stress hormone.  This can result in a decrease in the overall feelings of anxiety as well as help with sleep and recovery.
  8. Relieves Cramping– As ALS progresses many patients report sudden painful and involuntary contractions of the muscles.  As a Massage Therapist when you stretch out those muscles in a supported, slow and steady way, you can relieve those cramps both during treatment, but also decreasing the frequency of those cramps after treatment.  Providing pain relief that can last several days.
  9. Improves Mobility– Many clients report much improved mobility after massage therapy sessions.  Especially in hands and feet, allowing them more freedom of movement and greater control.  This can last several days and has huge physical and emotional benefits.
  10. Improves Circulation–  Without normal muscle function circulation is obviously effected, this makes clients vulnerable to colds, and other illnesses and makes recovery take much longer.  By providing massage therapy you greatly increase immune function as well as the bodies ability to recuperate.

Your Health Span provides Home Visit Massage and wellness services to clients, customizing our sessions to the needs of a client and making excellent customer service our highest priority.  Massage Therapy Calgary services are all provided by a registered massage therapist.

We always provide the best service to our clients with ALS disease looking for pain relief through Massage therapy.


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