Massage therapy for Parkinson's

We find out more about what massage therapy is and how it may help your Parkinson’s symptoms.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is a type of complementary therapy. It aims to help you relax.

A massage therapist works by applying pressure to your body. They might focus on one area or might massage your whole body. They may massage gently or vigorously, depending on their technique. A massage might consist of kneading, rubbing or stroking your body.

Massage therapy shouldn’t hurt, but you might feel some discomfort when pressure is applied to tense areas of your body.

For example, sports massage is a type of massage, which focuses on the muscle groups which you use during physical activity or where you’re experiencing pain. It can help recovery or ease any soreness.

Unlike other types of massage, which might aim to relax your whole body, a sports massage can be quite vigorous.

How can massage help?

There isn’t enough evidence about the benefits of massage therapy for Parkinson’s. But research suggests that massage may help reduce:

  • physical pain
  • anxiety
  • depression

Some people find that massage therapy can help relieve:

  • stiffness
  • cramps
  • muscle pains
  • rigidity

Can everyone have massage therapy?

If you have bruises or wounds, you should wait until these are healed before having a massage. If you have a history of blood clots, or weak or broken bones, massage therapy might not be right for you.

If you’re not sure, speak to your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse first.

Things to bear in mind

Massage therapy is not available on the NHS. This means you need to find and pay for your own treatment.

Unlike healthcare professionals, anyone can call themselves a massage therapist. There aren’t any set standards of working that a massage therapist has to follow.

It’s important to make sure you’re happy with the experience and qualifications of the person you choose.

You can ask to see reviews from previous clients, as well as evidence of their qualifications and insurance.

When looking for a provider of complementary therapies, it’s a good idea to ask in advance about:

  • the price of treatment
  • the length of treatment
  • any potential side effects

It’s important to let your massage therapist know about your Parkinson’s. You can ask them to explain what the massage will be like, so you know what to expect. Don’t forget you can ask for the massage to stop at any time.

Massages might take place at the massage therapist’s clinic or studio, at a spa or even your home. You can ask in advance about what you might need to wear.

Read more about massage therapy and other complementary therapies.

Sherry, 55, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last summer. She shares how a recent sports massage helped her manage her symptoms.

“I’d been struggling with pain for a while, especially at night. My legs and the front of my thighs were particularly sore and it was keeping me up.

My Parkinson’s nurse advised me to go for a full body sports massage.

“I had a massage before my diagnosis, as I’d been having Parkinson’s symptoms for a couple of years without knowing what they were. I went back to the same therapist as I already felt comfortable with him.

“I booked a 90-minute appointment, which took place at my home.

“My therapist was robust and moved my hips thoroughly.

I had to grit my teeth – but it was well worth it.

“I’m going to see my massage therapist monthly for three months. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap. For me though, it’s been worth it as it’s really freed up my legs.

“I’ve felt great since my sports massage. I’d definitely recommend it.”