ALS Worldwide welcomes any questions or comments you might have.  We provide free, personalized and confidential support services to anyone in the ALS community—whether you are a patient or a loved one, friend, health care professional or caregiver of someone diagnosed.

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ALS Worldwide
1800 North Prospect Avenue, Suite 4B
Milwaukee, WI 53202

ALS Worldwide
December 28, 2015

Massage Therapy for Caregivers

In addition to easing pain, massage therapy may help increase mobility, minimize muscle pain and cramping, increase circulation and reduce anxiety. Massage can help the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of ALS/MND patients. Oftentimes, those with debilitating diseases do not receive enough touch as family and friends see them as fragile and are afraid of hurting them. Trained massage therapists can offer caring touch.

Tara Mark is an accomplished massage therapist with an excellent reputation. Her professional experience includes working for the Chicago Bulls basketball team for many years and, most importantly here, providing frequent treatments for th late Ben Byer throughout his illness. 

Tara shares the knowledge she gained from working with Ben below, so ALS/MND patients can get the most out of massage therapy. Here is a brief list of tips she prepared for massage therapists in order to best work with ALS/MND patients. Please share the list with your massage therapist at your appointment. Communication is vital—always let your massage therapist know what your expectations are, and communicate if you are uncomfortable at any point during the massage. 

  • Talk to your therapist about what you hope to achieve with massage, and together determine the level of care you are able to receive.
  • It’s important to work within a person’s comfort zone because it may change, sometimes frequently.
  • Massage still feels good, even when a person has lost muscle mass.
  • Touch is so important, but when someone has ALS/MND, people around them may be afraid to touch them because they are worried they might hurt them. That’s why massage becomes so valuable.
  • Have the person lie on their side, bolstered with a lot of pillows. This enables the therapist to move limbs more easily while the person is comfortable. And it also provides access to the spine and erector muscles.
  • It’s fine to work on a bed instead of a table if that is more comfortable.
  • 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time.
  • The first time might feel a little scary so its important to ask the person questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no if communication is limited. Sometimes blinking once for yes and two for no can help.
  • Ask ahead of time if you can speak with their doctor for additional guidance.
  • Have the regular caregiver stay in the room with you to provide assistance if needed.
  • Persons with ALS/MND should begin regular massage therapy early.

If you would like more information about the value of touch, please review this website.

To speak directly with Tara Mark, please contact [email protected] for more information.