What do you think of when you think of a massage? Do you think of some sunny, tropical vacation where the drinks cost more than your monthly paycheck? Maybe you imagine some dingy basement parlor or a New Age hub filled to the brim with incense smoke and Enya songs? Does it make you think of your doctor’s office? No matter what your impressions of massage might be, it can be a great addition to your lupus treatment toolbox.
Along with other forms of non-chemical medical treatment, massage therapy has seen an upswing in recent years. The Dept. of Labor projects a 19% rise in employment between 2008 and 2018. While that might not sound like much, it equals over 23,000 more massage therapists just dying to get their hands on you. Massage is already a part of many forms of treatment – if you’ve had physical therapy for an injury for example, “manual” manipulation could have been part of your overall treatment. If you’ve been confined to a hospital bed and the staff was worried about the risk of blood clots, you might have been fitted for an inflatable leg cuff that in effect massages the legs and helps to keep the blood flowing. If you’ve had persistent back problems, you might have seen a chiropractor for advice.
Now whether or not you believe in the more esoteric benefits of massage such as allowing the body to better eliminate toxins, or balancing your body’s energies, there are some very practical reasons to try a massage:
- Muscle cramps kill. Okay, not always in a literal sense, but muscle tightness can cause severe pain and discomfort. And you might not even realize how cramped your muscles have become – neck and back strain from sitting at a desk can build up for years before it gets painful enough to really bother you. Heavy shoulder bags are another culprit. If you’ve had nagging discomfort in your shoulder or back, a massage might be a better treatment than an aspirin.
- You need to unwind. I think one of massage’s greatest benefits is relaxation. Depending on the context of the massage you have (ie. in a doctor’s office versus a spa), lighting, scent and sound might be incorporated to boost the peaceful atmosphere in addition to the actual massage. With stress among some of lupus’ most common triggers, any way to relax more deeply and more often is definitely worth trying.
- Stop the machines! Massage pillows and backrests can be nice (I have a few that I use regularly), but it just doesn’t compare to being worked on by a person who can change up the intensity and focus on the spots you need – all in real time. A machine can’t focus on muscle knots and are extremely limited in the variety of motions they can perform.
The SLE Lupus Foundation provides a few more pointers and a neat little resource guide for the NYC area. Schools that have programs in chiropraction, massage therapy or physical therapy might also have programs that offer discounted sessions. Barter is another option if you have some skills and are willing to work for it. My personal favorite is getting discounted vouchers through websites like Tippr, Groupon, and Trubates.
As far as I’ve seen there are two distinct types of massage – medical and non-medical. Medical massages are the ones you get during a physical therapy session or with a chiropractor. These are meant to treat specific injuries or problem areas and aren’t always relaxing. Non-medical massages are the ones you might find at a spas or holistic centers. They often combine massage with other beauty or relaxation treatments such as body scrubs and pedicures or things like prayer and other forms of energy work. These really push the soothing atmosphere with music and scent and while they will focus on trouble spots if you ask, the aim is to give the body an overall calming experience instead of working out knots or injury.
Keep in mind that companies cooperating with voucher programs like Groupon are looking for ways to get more regular customers and boost business – which might mean enduring a sales pitch after your massage is over.
On a personal note…
It’s been a crazy few weeks folks. I went from having plenty of free time to being swamped. Throw in a few bouts of vertigo and some snags with my insurance’s medication program and there hasn’t been much time for blogging. In the meanwhile, I’ll try to keep up as much as possible while you can still follow along by subscribing to email posts.