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  • Writer's pictureMeg Donnelly

Is Massage a Good Fit for Those with Parkinson's?

Road Sign directing trafiic to the left or right, with a message "Is Massage a Good Fit for those with Parkinson's"?

Note: In July 2018, I originally put together this reference sheet about massage and Parkinson's to use as a resource when speaking with healthcare professionals and/or clients. I am now sharing it here as well as a blog post . The information is current as of July 2018. Since then, I have seen some new articles but feel the information provided is still current. I will, however, go back to this blog post every so often and update it as I come across new research or information., changing the highlighted current as of date listed in bold. Please just keep in mind that the information may only be as current as the highlighted date above


While Parkinson's (PD) or Parkinsonism have differences, they are related by similar symptoms. For many clients with Parkinson's (PD) or Parkinsonism, massage therapy can add to quality of life through stress and anxiety reduction. Therapeutic massage may have additional benefits including a temporary reduction of rigidity and/or have a positive effect on tremors, but the science is unclear and more research is needed. While I am not currently aware of any randomized clinical trials to support the use of massage therapy for the treatment of symptoms of Parkinson’s or Parkinsonism, some smaller studies and case reports have demonstrated positive effects. Anecdotally, many massage therapists including myself, report positive results for tremors and rigidity from their clients, at least on a temporary basis.

If you are interested in adding massage therapy as a complementary piece of your health and wellness, please keep in mind that therapeutic massage should not be used as an alternative or replacement to the plan of care you decide on through the guidance of your medical team which may include but is not limited to your Movement Disorder Specialist, Neurologist, Primary Care Physician, Parkinson's specialist or other health care professionals.

No two cases of Parkinson's are the same, so I recommend speaking with your Licensed Massage Therapist before your first appointment to review your history and discuss your specific goals. This will help you determine whether or not massage may be a good fit for you and allow your to individualized your massage. If you would like to schedule a consult directly with me at my studio, you can do so using the booking code PMCONSULT, to waive the consult fee. References

“Massage therapy is commonly sought, with some neurologists advocating this form of care for alleviation of muscle rigidity, joint contractures, and associated pain. Yet, there are no randomized clinical trials to support the use of massage therapy for treatment of symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Over the past few years, however, several smaller studies have been published demonstrating the positive effects of massage for clients with this disease.”

“Parkinson's patients experience progressive stiffness and rigidity of voluntary muscles. Rigidity is safe for massage, especially when sensation is present, but it is important to remember that this comes about because of a CNS dysfunction, and won't be completely resolved, even with the most brilliantly applied bodywork.

Several different modalities have been quantifiably researched in the context of parkinsonism, including Trager, Alexander Technique and Swedish massage with specific muscle exercises. All modalities report improvement in function, from the reduction of rigidity and improvement of sleep, to the reduction of tremor and increase of daily activity stamina.

It is important to work in cooperation with a client's primary physician, because massage may impact the need for antidepressants and other medication. Be aware, however, that clients with Parkinson's disease do not have the freedom of movement that most other people do, and they may have great difficulty in getting on and off tables safely. Some massage therapists address this by working with these clients on chairs or floor mats.”

This case study saw positive results with regards to tremors but didn’t see positive results in rigidity. *since this is a case study & not a clinical trial, more research is needed. Additionally there were time constraints so gauging conclusions from this is difficult.

Effects of traditional Japanese massage therapy on various symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease: a case-series study.Donoyama N, et al. J Altern Complement Med. 2012. This case study saw positive results with regards to gait speed and range of motion. However, since this is a case study & not a clinical trial, more research is needed. Additionally, there were some concerns that the improvements are only temporary as they were measured only directly before and after massage.

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