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MS/Cancer Support Group explores benefits of massage therapy

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“Being on a massage table is a wonderful place to be for a person with Multiple Sclerosis (MS),” said Denali Walden, a massage therapist in Olympia, WA.

And Walden knows what she is talking about. She graduated from massage therapy school with an emphasis on medical and injury treatment techniques. She has continued her education in modalities related to MS and volunteered for four years in a program that provided massages to cancer patients and their caregivers.

Walden spoke to the MS/cancer conference call in February about massage therapy for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).


Massage therapy can help a person with MS in many ways. It can help relax muscles, enhance range of motion and may ease pain as it can reduce swelling. Massages can increase blood flow and may be helpful in preventing pressure sores. A person should not get a massage if he or she has pressure sores or red areas on the skin.

“Massage can give a person with MS a chance to relax,” Walden said. “Getting touched during a massage is different from a therapeutic touch caregivers do when moving your body. One of the greatest benefits of getting a massage is to have a caring connection to your body.”

People who have massages may have an increased sense of well-being and may sleep better.

Walden recommends MS and/or cancer patients to check with their physician before getting a massage.

 MS and Cancer

For a person with MS and cancer, massage therapy in some instances can be contraindicated. For example, depending on the cancer, a person may have localized areas that should not be worked on. “You do not want to break up a mass or spread cells,” Walden said.

In these circumstances, MS and cancer patients may benefit from a scalp or foot massage. “Even a modified massage can make a difference,” Walden said 

Be your own advocate

Walden recommends that when people with MS and/or cancer meet with a massage therapist, they should express their concerns and questions and to be their own advocates.

“You know your body better than anyone,” Walden said. “Always have a voice for your body. Tell where you don’t want to be touched, where you are sensitive and why.”

People can ask their doctors and oncology nurses for a message therapist referral. Go to the American Massage Therapy Association website at for more information.

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