It is no secret that massage is a force to be reckoned with in the world of health and wellness. It can help enhance injury recovery, improve breathing, and strengthen circulatory function. Even so, the more time passes, the more we discover how massage’s unique benefits can improve other, more serious health problems. The complex issue of autoimmune diseases is one of them.
What Are Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune diseases target the immune system, causing it to attack the body’s own cells and tissues instead of outside invaders. There is a wide range of conditions that fall under the category of autoimmune diseases. Some of the more common conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
Research is still ongoing, and we are beginning to learn more about risk factors that may lead to autoimmune disorders. However, it is still unknown what causes the immune system to attack the body. Because of that, there is currently no known cure for these conditions.
How Does It Impact the Body?
Different autoimmune diseases will cause autoimmune cells to attack different tissues in different parts of the body, so the exact impact will vary depending on the exact condition. However, some symptoms are common across the board, including:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Digestive issues
- Thyroid imbalance
- Sleep disturbances
In some cases, these symptoms are consistent, while other symptoms may come and go, such as a fever or fatigue.
How Can Massage Help With Autoimmune Disease?
As we said, there is no known cure for autoimmune conditions. However, those who struggle with them can take steps to manage their symptoms. By helping to target symptoms, there is a myriad of ways massage can help with autoimmune diseases.
Reduction in Pain
Pain is one of the more prevalent issues related to autoimmune diseases. This is especially true for conditions like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks nerve endings and joint tissue. Massage can help target pain in the joints and muscles by reducing tension in the muscles and the complex web of myofascial tissues that surrounds the muscles.
One of the primary causes of pain in autoimmune sufferers is inflammation caused by the immune system attacking tissue. One of the key ways to reduce inflammation is to improve circulation. Massage has been shown to help improve circulation throughout the body and to specific parts such as the back or feet. This helps reduce inflammation and pain.
The lymphatic system plays many roles in your body. Its system of arteries helps maintain your body’s fluids, absorb fat, remove cellular waste, and release white blood cells. Research suggests that disruption of lymphatic function can contribute to autoimmune disorders. Because of this, many believe increasing lymphatic drainage through massage can offer some relief to those with autoimmune disorders.
Balance in Hormones
Some autoimmune diseases directly impact our body’s ability to produce thyroids. Graves’ disease, for instance, directly attacks the thyroid, which produces hormones necessary for regular cellular production. The combination of improving circulation and lymphatic drainage can aid in spreading necessary hormones throughout the body, offsetting their reduced production.
One often-overlooked manifestation of autoimmune disorders is hampered gastrointestinal processes. For instance, celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, causes diarrhea, vomit, and abdominal pain. Surprisingly, massage can also improve digestion by helping the body produce digestive enzymes and improving movement within the intestines. The relaxing nature of massage can also help reduce constipation.
Improvement in Sleep
Even though autoimmune diseases often lead to fatigue, they are also linked with insomnia and sleep disruption. There are several reasons for this, key among them being chronic pain and stress. Additionally, the immune system may potentially attack neurotransmitters that relate to sleep. Massage’s deeply relaxing nature and the way it helps the body produce serotonin makes it perfect for helping regain sleep.
Those with autoimmune diseases tend to have a higher prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia. While a massage can’t completely undo these conditions, it can help improve one’s mood by reducing the production of stress-causing hormones like cortisol and increasing the production of feel-good hormones like endorphins.
Best Types of Massage for Autoimmune Diseases
This is what most would call a “classic” massage. It is a simple, gentle massage that focuses on flowing strokes, kneading, and tapping across the entire body. A Swedish massage is a good option for those who are dealing with chronic pain, especially those whose conditions make their bones and joints sensitive. It’s also perfect for promoting mental and physical relaxation for those dealing with the emotional effects of autoimmune disorders.
Shiatsu massages are similar to Swedish massage in the way it touches upon the whole body. However, Shiatsu massages tend to utilize more pressure without reaching the intensity of a deep-tissue massage. They also tend to focus on specific parts of the body. This is good for those with autoimmune disorders that target specific parts of the body like their joints, feet, or hands.
As mentioned, clearing out one’s lymphatic system is helpful for a variety of autoimmune disorders. While most massages will help, there are massage techniques specific to lymphatic drainage. It is a lighter massage that targets the lymphatic vessels. Through stretching, stroking, and compressions, the masseuse or massage product helps promote the flow of fluids through this system.
When people think of massage, they tend to imagine a massage that focuses on the back, such as when you’re lying in a massage parlor or sinking into a massage chair. But massage can target anywhere on the body, including the abdomen. This type of massage is perfect for those dealing with digestive issues. This can be done by hand or with a handheld massage device, like those found in our Trumedic massager collection.
Autoimmune disorders can impact every facet of a person’s life, but that does not mean that they are helpless to do anything about it. At Relaxacare, we believe in the power of massage to improve people’s overall health. That is why we have a wide variety of products to help manage many symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases.