May is National Stroke Awareness Month, a time to gather together to discuss the latest advancements in brain health and raise awareness for stroke warning signs and prevention tips. Every year, more than 795,000 people suffer from a stroke; the number-five cause of death and leading cause of disability in the U.S.
May is also a great time to become aware of the treatment options available to stroke patients. Acute and chronic care treatment are both essential to a full recovery, and common options include speech therapy, physical therapy, and even surgery. However, there is another option for chronic care that has proven to be quite effective for patients recovering from a stroke.
Can Massage Therapy Help Stroke Survivors?
Stokes can occur anywhere in the brain, which means that every stroke survivor may be affected differently. Many will suffer from long-term motor damage, sensory damage, memory loss, and even depression. Fortunately, physicians have started incorporating massage therapy into certain patients’ treatment plans.
While the effects of massage therapy vary from patient to patient, massage has been found beneficial for isolated issues caused by a stroke. Massage therapy is also believed to improve motor skills, increase sensorimotor function, and decrease physiological stress and anxiety after a stroke. While it is not recommended as a part of acute recovery, and there is no standard approach to this option, massage therapy can actually be an important part of a stroke survivor’s post-acute, rehabilitation treatment.
Benefits of Massage Therapy for Stroke Patients
Only after consulting with a doctor and undergoing additional treatments for stroke should massage therapy be considered. There have been many success stories to this approach, and the benefits include:
Higher serotonin levels
One of the best ways massage therapy can help stroke survivors is by helping to increase their serotonin levels. The increase of serotonin can alleviate depression, which is a common occurrence after a stroke. Because antidepressants can put patients at risk for vascular problems and other issues, routine massage therapy can also help reduce the risk of a heart attack and even another stroke. This factor alone can make massage therapy a vital part of a stroke survivor’s recovery.
Stroke survivors can benefit greatly from certain massage therapy techniques, including lymphatic drainage to help circulation. However, since strokes can cause inflammation and swelling in the body, it is important to make sure this has subsided completely before applying these techniques. It is also important to only use gentle, light-touch strokes, such as in a Swedish massage.
Retained muscle function
When massage therapy is paired with physical therapy, it can help patients improve their range of motion and regain muscle control after a stroke. Deep tissue massages are especially effective in improving muscle function. Additionally, assisted stretching led by a massage therapist can help with muscle health in clients recovering from a stroke.
Massage therapy can even help patients regain memories that were lost due to a stroke. Reflexology has been proven an effective treatment for dementia as well as Alzheimer’s, and the same techniques can be beneficial to stroke survivors. Massage therapists who are trained in reflexology can focus on certain trigger points, including the brain, spine, heart, and adrenals to help promote brain function and memory.
Less stress and anxiety
Along with helping to reduce depression, massage therapy is known to ease anxiety and stress. Massage therapy can improve the mental health of all patients, and this can be especially helpful to those who have just suffered from a stroke. Even simple treatments, such as a 10-minute slow-stroke back massage has been proven to ease pain and reduce anxiety. Not all stroke patients suffer from a mental health condition, however, for those with stress or anxiety, improving their mental health can help in promoting physical healing as well.
Massage therapy has been proven to relieve pain, making it invaluable to car accident survivors, cancer patients, and individuals suffering from chronic pain. In fact, massage therapy can even reduce the opioid crisis in the U.S. Experiencing chronic or occasional post-stroke pain is common among stroke survivors. Shoulder pain is especially common, as well as aching, burning, itching, and stabbing sensations. This makes massage therapy exceptionally beneficial to stroke survivors, as pain relief can aid them in all other parts of their recovery.
Become a Certified Massage Therapist Today
As a massage therapist to stroke survivors, you will have the chance to help people recover in more ways than one. From easing pain to reducing mental stress, you can improve your clients’ overall quality of life and help them recover in a relaxing and comfortable environment. Get your massage therapist certification with Woodruff Medical today.