Today’s topic is Reflexology and Multiple Sclerosis. I just gave a class on this subject and had so much information that I wanted to share it with you too.
I’ve worked with several clients with MS in my practice and they were all coming for the relief of their symptoms that reflexology offers.
Because their experiences with the disease varied from day to day and therefore session to session, it was nonetheless amazing to witness the relief and hope that reflexology brought. None thought that reflexology was a cure (there can be no claims of that), but all felt a relieving of their symptoms to some degree.
I’ll explain more in the following article and talk about what you as a reflexologist can do.
What is Multiple Sclerosis and how does it affect people?
I’ll start with an interesting statistic: there are approximately 400,000 people in the US who have Multiple Sclerosis and almost 200 more are diagnosed every week. Worldwide estimate is that there are 2.5 million people who suffer from the disease.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the myelin that is wrapped around various nerve fibers in the body. The wrapping is a protective measure that enables the nerves to function more efficiently.
It is known that when the myelin sheath is interrupted, that will cause the important communication between the CNS and the body to be broken down. This in turn triggers the symptoms in multiple sclerosis which well talk about in a minute because they can affect the eyes, the muscles, coordination, feelings of pain and numbness along with a host of other issues.
So far there is no cure for MS and while no type of medicine has been found to cure it, certain alternative therapies have shown promise for management of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
One definition of the word “sclerosis” is tissue that has hardened from scarring.
With MS this means is that scars tissue (also known as plaque or lesions) will affect the brain in its ability to communicate with the rest of the nervous system via the spinal cord. Eventually this can lead to neurological symptoms such as physical disability and/or cognitive disability including neuropsychiatric disorder.
In the case of Multiple Sclerosis, it’s a disease where the body’s own immune system, for reasons as yet unknown, has attacked the central nervous system. Symptoms will vary in the rate and intensity that they appear – anywhere from few symptoms, to sudden attacks with relapses that are relatively symptomless, to slowly progressing from onset over time, to a rapid, steady progression, or any combination of the above.
They say that no two people have exactly the same symptoms of MS. The disease is unique in its progression and in its symptomatology from person to person.
What are the results of the interruption of the nerve messages that are sent out every second through the brain and spine? Well, apart from the difficulty of movement there are also common organ functions and cognitive functions that may also be affected.
Symptoms that you’ll hear about are varied and may include balance issues, vertigo and dizziness. A common problem due to peripheral nerve damage is called paresthesia or the experience of unusual skin sensations – i.e., itching, burning tingling, and/or tickling as well as numbness and pain in the limbs, especially the extremities. The feeling of “pins and needles” especially in the feet, legs, arms and hands is also often described.
Functions of the eyes (blurred or double vision), and the functions of the colon and the bladder can also be affected.
Cognitively, memory difficulties, the ability to solve problems and even attention span can be impacted by the disease and general fatigue symptoms are often persistent.
Other symptoms that will occur less often but with no less influence are problems with swallowing, speech disorders, loss of hearing and headaches.
In addition to the motor coordination difficulties (tremors and even seizures), the spasticity or spasms caused by the disease can also affect the internal organs. It’s really these spasms in the bladder that can be the cause of urinary problems including urgency (or hesitancy) frequency and incontinence.
You can see that for some, rehabilitation will often be necessary in order to maintain functions or to restore lost ones that are essential to ever day life. And, as a reflexologist you may be working in coordination with a list of other therapists including speech, physical, occupational, cognitive and vocational therapies.
Although multiple sclerosis is often very difficult to treat, many MS patients have turn to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to manage their condition and relieve their symptoms.
How can Reflexology help?
So here’s the question – Would reflexology be helpful to a person with Multiple Sclerosis? Can reflexology help to alleviate the symptoms of MS? And, if so, which of the number of symptoms might it help to improve?
We all know that reflexologists cannot treat, diagnose or prescribe. That said, reflexology has become known as a popular complementary modality in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. A good amount of research (featured in my recent tele-class but too numerous to mention here) has already been done on the management of:
- sleep disorders
- bladder function
- insomnia and sleep disorders
- and other common symptoms of MS
It is estimated today that about 50-60% of persons with Multiple Sclerosis are using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Popular modalities are Meditation, Tai Chi Chuan, Diets, Yoga, Vitamin and Dietary Supplements, Naturopathy, Acupuncture and Reflexology.
Reflexology is already known to help improve circulation, boost the immune system and instigate many healing forces. People with MS receiving reflexology have reported it beneficial in alleviating all of the above, including pain, bladder function, insomnia and sleep disorders, numbness, and equally important is the stress relief.
We understand that reflexology does not take the place of mainstream medicine. On the contrary it helps and complements the medical profession.
Because it is an illness that has no known cure, many doctors are referring their patients with MS to try Complementary and Alternative Modalities.
As a reflexologist, you need to heed your clients’ past and current symptoms. I let my clients know that we are a team and I will take the session only as far as their comfort level allows. That means monitoring their sensations so that the reflexology I can provide offers the deepest relaxation possible.
We all know that the relaxation of reflexology can do wonders for anyone experiencing the stress that an illness can bring. Multiple Sclerosis, especially where the variables are constantly changing, is no exception.