Today’s topic is Reflexology and Multiple Sclerosis. I just gave a class on this subject and had so much information that I wanted to share it with you too.I’ve worked with several clients with MS in my practice and they were all coming for the relief of their symptoms that reflexology offers.Because their experiences with the disease varied from day to day and therefore session to session, it was nonetheless amazing to witness the relief and hope that reflexology brought. None thought that reflexology was a cure (there can be no claims of that), but all felt a relieving of their symptoms to some degree.I’ll explain more in the following article and talk about what you as a reflexologist can do.What is Multiple Sclerosis and how does it affect people?I’ll start with an interesting statistic: there are approximately 400,000 people in the US who have Multiple Sclerosis and almost 200 more are diagnosed every week. Worldwide estimate is that there are 2.5 million people who suffer from the disease.Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the myelin that is wrapped around various nerve fibers in the body. The wrapping is a protective measure that enables the nerves to function more efficiently.It is known that when the myelin sheath is interrupted, that will cause the important communication between the CNS and the body to be broken down. This in turn triggers the symptoms in multiple sclerosis which well talk about in a minute because they can affect the eyes, the muscles, coordination, feelings of pain and numbness along with a host of other issues.So far there is no cure for MS and while no type of medicine has been found to cure it, certain alternative therapies have shown promise for management of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.One definition of the word “sclerosis” is tissue that has hardened from scarring.With MS this means is that scars tissue (also known as plaque or lesions) will affect the brain in its ability to communicate with the rest of the nervous system via the spinal cord. Eventually this can lead to neurological symptoms such as physical disability and/or cognitive disability including neuropsychiatric disorder.In the case of Multiple Sclerosis, it’s a disease where the body’s own immune system, for reasons as yet unknown, has attacked the central nervous system. Symptoms will vary in the rate and intensity that they appear – anywhere from few symptoms, to sudden attacks with relapses that are relatively symptomless, to slowly progressing from onset over time, to a rapid, steady progression, or any combination of the above.Symptoms:They say that no two people have exactly the same symptoms of MS. The disease is unique in its progression and in its symptomatology from person to person.What are the results of the interruption of the nerve messages that are sent out every second through the brain and spine? Well, apart from the difficulty of movement there are also common organ functions and cognitive functions that may also be affected.Symptoms that you’ll hear about are varied and may include balance issues, vertigo and dizziness. A common problem due to peripheral nerve damage is called paresthesia or the experience of unusual skin sensations – i.e., itching, burning tingling, and/or tickling as well as numbness and pain in the limbs, especially the extremities. The feeling of “pins and needles” especially in the feet, legs, arms and hands is also often described.Functions of the eyes (blurred or double vision), and the functions of the colon and the bladder can also be affected.Cognitively, memory difficulties, the ability to solve problems and even attention span can be impacted by the disease and general fatigue symptoms are often persistent.Other symptoms that will occur less often but with no less influence are problems with swallowing, speech disorders, loss of hearing and headaches.In addition to the motor coordination difficulties (tremors and even seizures), the spasticity or spasms caused by the disease can also affect the internal organs. It’s really these spasms in the bladder that can be the cause of urinary problems including urgency (or hesitancy) frequency and incontinence.You can see that for some, rehabilitation will often be necessary in order to maintain functions or to restore lost ones that are essential to ever day life. And, as a reflexologist you may be working in coordination with a list of other therapists including speech, physical, occupational, cognitive and vocational therapies.Although multiple sclerosis is often very difficult to treat, many MS patients have turn to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to manage their condition and relieve their symptoms.How can Reflexology help?So here’s the question – Would reflexology be helpful to a person with Multiple Sclerosis? Can reflexology help to alleviate the symptoms of MS? And, if so, which of the number of symptoms might it help to improve?We all know that reflexologists cannot treat, diagnose or prescribe. That said, reflexology has become known as a popular complementary modality in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. A good amount of research (featured in my recent tele-class but too numerous to mention here) has already been done on the management of:- pain – numbness- sleep disorders- bladder function – insomnia and sleep disorders- and other common symptoms of MSIt is estimated today that about 50-60% of persons with Multiple Sclerosis are using Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Popular modalities are Meditation, Tai Chi Chuan, Diets, Yoga, Vitamin and Dietary Supplements, Naturopathy, Acupuncture and Reflexology.Reflexology is already known to help improve circulation, boost the immune system and instigate many healing forces. People with MS receiving reflexology have reported it beneficial in alleviating all of the above, including pain, bladder function, insomnia and sleep disorders, numbness, and equally important is the stress relief.We understand that reflexology does not take the place of mainstream medicine. On the contrary it helps and complements the medical profession.Because it is an illness that has no known cure, many doctors are referring their patients with MS to try Complementary and Alternative Modalities.As a reflexologist, you need to heed your clients’ past and current symptoms. I let my clients know that we are a team and I will take the session only as far as their comfort level allows. That means monitoring their sensations so that the reflexology I can provide offers the deepest relaxation possible.We all know that the relaxation of reflexology can do wonders for anyone experiencing the stress that an illness can bring. Multiple Sclerosis, especially where the variables are constantly changing, is no exception.Wendy Coad
Today’s treatments for multiple sclerosis primarily aim to slow down the progression of the disease, prevent the development of further complications and alleviate the existing symptoms. At present there is no specific cure for multiple sclerosis and thus no medical treatment can completely eliminate the disease. In addition, the medications used in multiple sclerosis treatments can’t reverse the nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis; they can only prevent future damage by minimizing the destructive potential of various factors that sustain the disease (multiple sclerosis involves an autoimmune response of the body, determining the immune system to destroy healthy nerve cells instead of intruding infectious agents). However, patients who receive the appropriate treatment timely and in the right doses can live normal, active lives and gain control over their symptoms.The medications that have proved very efficient in controlling the progression of multiple sclerosis and alleviating its symptoms are Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone. Popular under the name of “ABC drugs”, Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone are extensively used to counter symptoms such as fatigue and muscular weakness, manifestations that have been associated with multiple sclerosis and various other resembling autoimmune disorders. Although Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone all have distinctive characteristics, they all have the same goal – to reduce the damage caused by the dysfunctional immune system to healthy nervous cells by various biological mechanisms. Administered in the appropriate dose, each distinctive medication from the category of “ABC drugs” can reduce the frequency and intensity of multiple sclerosis by up to a third.Avonex (Beta-interferon-1a) – This medication is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and is administered under the form of intramuscular injections. Avonex can substantially reduce inflammation at the level of the affected nerve cells and can slow down the process of demyelization (the process of myelin destruction). Administered to patients in early stages of multiple sclerosis, Avonex can prevent the occurrence of complications such as dysfunctions of the motor system (which includes muscles and connective tissues), loss of balance, visual and hearing problems, speech problems, memory problems and other similar cognitive impairments (occur when various areas of the brain are affected by multiple sclerosis).Although Avonex can produce side-effects such as fever, chills, muscular discomfort and pain, these symptoms are not very intense and only last for a few hours after the injection. The side-effects of Avonex can be controlled by using ibuprofen or acetaminophen-based drugs before or soon after each injection.Betaseron (Beta-interferon-1b) – This drug is also very effective in controlling the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and reducing the risks of complications. Betaseron is administered under the form of non-painful subcutaneous injections and is well tolerated by most patients. Occasionally, Betaseron can produce side-effects such as skin irritation at the site of injection, moderate fever and fatigue. The drug is the primary choice in the treatment of secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, a subtype of the disease characterized by gradual progression.Copaxone (Glatiramer acetate or Copolymer-1) – Included in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, this medication is also very efficient in alleviating symptoms and preventing the occurrence of complications. The drug is delivered under the form of subcutaneous injections. Compared to the previously described drugs, Copaxone has very few side-effects and is very well tolerated by most patients. Copaxone is considered to be a safe medication and is suitable for most categories of patients with multiple sclerosis.