It's Friday, so I'll be at the care home today, usually my favourite day of the week. Everyone I visit is unique and is living with different illnesses and conditions.
As we know from my previous post on how massage therapy can help people with arthritis, many residents in the care home have arthritis, while several residents are stroke patients. I visit these residents three to four times a month, helping to assist their rehabilitation plans. It's important to remember I am not medically trained, and my support should only ever assist rehabilitation plans. However, very few people know how much massage therapy can help, so I thought I'd share a few of my findings to spread the word of the benefits of massage therapy for stroke patients...
Long-term effects for stroke patients:
As we all know, everyone who has survived a stroke is affected differently, while some may have paralysis, others may have muscle weakness, speech or even memory loss. I leave speech and memory loss to Speech or Memory Loss Therapists, and focus on helping those with paralysis or muscle weakness.
How can massage help stroke patients?
When patients first arrive from hospital, they often have swelling in the area most affected so at first I focus on reducing the swelling with gentle massage. This gentle massage encourages the body's natural lymphatic drainage process, which assists the removal of toxins and waste products that build up under our skin, which in turn reduces the swelling.
This gentle introduction is also effective in helping my clients get used to the feel of a massage, as many of them have never had a massage before. It also helps them get used to new sensations for a part of their body that now feels very different. It encourages them to become accustomed to that body part being touched, rather than hiding it away unseen which is often very natural for those who have lived through a stroke.
Once the swelling has gone down, I work with the residents to increase the pressure each week and also the length of massage time. We focus on the body part most in need, whether it is the hand, arm, leg or part of their face. I bring pressure/stress balls with me to set them exercises to do whilst I'm there and also during the week, to keep muscle movement to a maximum every day. It's important to monitor this though so that muscles are not suddenly overused.
What are the long-term benefits of massage for stroke patients?
Massage therapy can also help to boost circulation, which is often lacking when a body part cannot be moved. Massage encourages fresh oxygen and blood to that area of the body, removing toxins, and in time increasing mobility. It can also help to relax patients, which can in turn lead to more restful sleep. Many patients who I see have trouble resting, so this can really help them to enjoy a much-needed deeper sleep.
Again, it's important to reiterate that massage therapy should not be the only source of rehabilitation programme for stroke patients. It should compliment physiotherapy programmes, or stroke unit rehabilitation programmes. I am not claiming massage therapy can cure paralysis and immobility caused by a stroke, but would rather like to highlight the positive impact it could make.
Do strokes only affect the elderly?
Strokes can affect us at any time, though we are more prone to strokes the older we become. Some people are also more at risk of a stroke than others (see here for more information from The Stroke Association on those who may be more at risk). Strokes do not discriminate, and nor do I. I am here to help whatever age or background you are, so please do get in touch if you think I can help.
Living through a stroke can be a highly emotional time for the patient and their families. I can only imagine how much change is involved, both physically and psychologically. I understand it can be a time of loneliness for many so I hope I can help, if only just a little.