Massage to Treat Symptoms of stroke and make recovery more complete.

Updated on May 21, 2018
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Jill Burk 


About Jill – Jill Burk has been working in the field of Massage therapy for over 25 years, owning a mobile therapeutic wellness company since 2007.

Massage can increase independence post stroke.

Strokes are very scary and they can completely change your quality of life, and the lives of the people closest to you. But until you have been affected, and even in the days and weeks just after a stroke, how each stroke will affect the patient and how recovery will go are a mystery. It is important at those moments to not panic, but to plan for the fullest possible recovery. Massage can be an important part of that plan. Massage and other touch therapies help in treating pain, anxiety, and stress but also in the treatment of the muscle contractions that can contribute to the disability.

If you or someone you love has had a stroke and has lost mobility due to pain and contractions in the muscles of the arms or legs, you are not alone. 62,000 Canadians will have a stroke this year, it is the leading cause of disability in adults and although 80% of those patients will survive and 2 out of every three stroke patients will return home – only 16% of patients will get into rehab right away. And although many symptoms get better as time goes on, some get worse, and other symptoms will appear even after release from the hospital.

The impact of spasticity on poststroke recovery may not be obvious at first, and should not be underestimated but it may be overlooked as part of initial recovery plans. It is often very painful which also can affect stress levels, sleep, anxiety and overall quality of life.

Upper limb spasticity causes reduced arm function and lower levels of independence, as well as with an astounding 400% increase in direct care costs during the first-year poststroke, and spasticity can also effect legs as well or even both, drastically decreasing independence. Making tasks like feeding yourself, putting on your socks or even going to the bathroom impossible to do without help.

According to Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen from Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden the early recognition of spasticity, and immediate treatment is very important, treatments that begin early after stroke have a higher level of success, and have shown to decrease the likelihood of debilitating and lingering symptoms.

Several studies are showing the positive effects of touch therapies on stroke recovery, and relieving both the pain and the disability caused by spasticity. Making a better quality of life achievable both through the reduced pain and discomfort and also through increased mobility, flexibility, and balance.

The therapist using long slow and deep strokes, will work the muscle with compression, stretching and long slow strokes and about 80% of stroke patients will find their pain decreases by at least one level, and about 67% fewer patients suffered debilitating pain and contractions in the months and years after the stroke versus stroke patients that did not receive touch therapy directly following their stroke.

Getting a massage or other touch therapy by a qualified therapist as soon as the Dr. gives the ok, could be vital in retaining and regaining the ability to do simple tasks of daily living, thereby keeping independence.

In a study of Improvement of sensorimotor functions in old age by passive sensory stimulation.Kalisch T, Tegenthoff M, Dinse HRClin Interv Aging. 2008; massage was shown to increase the fine motor skills of patients further indicating that a greater recovery and quality of life can be achieved by integrating massage into the treatment of post-stroke patients. These fine motor skills can contribute to being able to cook, dress, and do other daily tasks without help from another person. That is certainly an improvement in the quality of life.

Hand with debilitating contractions

Contracted hand due to Spasticity
Contracted hand due to Spasticity 

Are you looking for better quality of life after Stroke?

A massage is a valuable tool in treating contractions, pain, anxiety, and stress after a stroke, helping you achieve a higher quality of life. And it feels great too! A real win/win.

Giving you the best possible quality of life.

Massage also relieves neck and shoulder pain

Many patients wake up in hospital complaining of high levels of neck and should pain. This pain and discomfort can make it hard to sleep, recover, move around, and can be a factor in increased levels of stress and even panic.

It is easy to think that this is the least of your problems, but with massage therapy can be a relatively easy symptom to make a little or a lot better, a study was done in Hong Kong Polytechnic University Department of Nursing and Wong Chuk Hang Hospital, in Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Authors: Esther Mok and Chin Pang Woo, with 672 patients indicated that long slow gentle back strokes decreased back pain in nearly every patient. And in some cases was a substitute for pharmaceutical intervention

By decreasing and eliminating neck and back pain clients can be more mobile leading to less loss of muscle mass during the period of recovery, leading to more independence when they return home.


7 Tips on getting a massage after a stroke

  1. Check with your Dr. it shouldn’t be a problem but check anyway
  2. Ask if your therapist is licensed, you want someone that knows what they are doing
  3. Let the therapist know on the phone about the stroke and any lingering symptoms.
  4. Don’t feel like you will have to climb onto a massage table if that makes you uneasy, most therapists can and will adapt to an easy chair or a hospital bed
  5. Get into a program as quickly as possible, getting problems under control and keeping them that way.
  6. Go on a regular schedule, depending on levels of symptoms you might want to schedule 2 sessions a week for 1/2 an hour, or one session every couple of weeks might be just fine for you. Talk to your therapist and ask for recommendations.
  7. Find a therapist that makes you feel good. Massage also has positive effects on hormones that control sleep and mood, in order to get the full benefits of the treatment, feeling good is important.

Massage relieves Anxiety and stress.

Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for the body to heal and reset after suffering from a Stroke, and can also make it harder to make any decisions that need to be made as a result of a change in independence, as well as making it much more difficult for friends and family.

9 different studies on Stroke patients and show an immediate drop both the diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels; as well as decreasing salivary and urinary cortisol stress-hormone levels. Cortisol is produced by our bodies in times of stress and can affect mood, sleep, hostility and the bodies ability to recover.

By decreasing stress levels massage also decreases the risks of another health event, as well as limiting the dependence on pharmaceutical interventions.


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