Saturday, December 31, 2016

Benefits of Massage for Lupus

This article discusses:
 - What is Lupus from a Western medicine point of view
 - Looking at Lupus from a Chinese medicine point of view (TCM)
 - Benefits of Massage for Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue that can damage any part of the body: skin, joints, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs. Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that protect the body from anything foreign, like viruses, bacteria, and germs, but with an autoimmune disease, your immune system cannot tell the difference between these “foreign invaders” and your bodies healthy tissues, and creates auto antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue and cause pain, inflammation, and damage in the body.

Anyone can get Lupus, most develop the disease between the ages of 15-44 years old, and is 9x more common in women than men, with women of color 3x more likely to develop Lupus. Lupus is not contagious, most doctors believe Lupus results from both genetic and environmental stimuli. These environmental factors include: 

  • Extreme stress 
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light 
  • Smoking 
  • Some Medications or Antibiotics 
  • Infections 
  • And the Epstein Barr Virus
About 2 million Americans, and around 5 million people worldwide, have a form of Lupus. Lupus has no cure, but can be managed with treatment. Infections are the leading cause of death in people with Lupus, so treating any infection at the first signs, is a priority. 

Common symptoms of Lupus:

  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Painful/Swollen Joints 
  • Anemia 
  • Swelling in Legs, Hands, Feet, around Eyes
  • Pain in the Chest with Deep Breathing 
  • “Butterfly” Rash across Cheeks and Nose
  • Sun/Light Sensitivity 
  • Hair Loss
  • Abnormal Blood clotting 
  • Raynauds Phenomenon
  • Mouth/Nose Ulcers
Western Treatment for Lupus involves seeking treatment through a rheumatologist, and once diagnosed with Lupus, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your age, symptoms, general health, and lifestyle. The treatment plan should consist of:

  • Reducing Inflammation caused by Lupus
  • Suppress the Overactive Immune System 
  • Prevent Flares and Treat them when they occur
  • Control the Symptoms of Lupus; as stated above
  • Minimize Damage to Organs 
The medications used to treat Lupus include:
Anti-Inflammatories, which help reduce pain caused by inflammation, and for many people with Lupus, this is the only medication they need to control it

  • Aspirin and Tylenol, they are easily available over the counter and help with reducing pain and can control some symptoms of Lupus. Both can cause stomach irritation.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for inflammation suppression, joint pain and stiffness. Can also cause stomach irritation or bleeding ulcers, and to reduce these chances, can be taken with antacid medications like Prilosec or Prevacid
  • Corticosteroids that can quickly decrease the swelling, heat, tenderness, and pain associated with inflammation. Prednisone is the most common steroid prescribed.
  • Immunosuppressives are used to control inflammation and the overactive immune system, but can reduce your bodies ability to fight off infections.
  • Anticoagulants to thin blood and prevent clots that can be life threatening
  • Repository Corticotropin Injection that helps the body to produce its own natural steroid hormones, like cortisol, that help the immune system defend itself against inflammation.
  • Benlysta, which is the first and only drug specifically developed for and approved to treat Lupus, was developed to disrupt activation of B lymphocytes by interfering with BLyS, a protein required for B cell activity
In Chinese medicine (TCM), “Lupus” is not the term used, but is characterized by the symptoms that result from a Yin Deficiency and is mainly viewed as stemming from an internal injury, emotional distress.

In the case of Lupus there is:

  • Kidney Yin/Yang Deficiency
  • Lung Yin Deficiency
  • Liver Deficiency
  • Spleen Deficiency
  • and Liver Stagnation
In the body, Yin is the body fluids and other nourishing, cooling, and moisturizing mechanisms in the body and Yang is metabolic heat. When there is not enough cooling mechanisms in the body, hot Yang energy cannot be controlled. This is a kind of overheating in the body that causes many of the symptoms of Lupus.

Deficient Liver Blood causes most symptoms of Lupus such as:

  • Aversion to Bright Lights, as the Liver Nourishes and Lubricates the Eyes
  • Alopecia/Hair Loss, as Hair is sometimes considered Excess Liver blood
  • Arthritis/Joint Pain, as it is said the Liver Blood Nourishes and Lubricates the Tendons
  • Rashes, as another Function of Blood is to Lubricate the Skin 
Diagnosis in TCM would include:

  • Questioning Patient with Personal and Family Medical History
  • Examination of Physical Features such as Face, Tongue, Hair, Nails, Sputum/Mucus, and Locations of Pains
  • Smelling of the Breath
  • Feeling the Pulse
  • Listening to Sounds in the Chest 
Treatment of the Symptoms and Deficiencies could involve:

  • Herbal formulas that help with the imbalance of Yin and Yang 
  • Acupuncture or Moxibustion for Tonification where it is needed
  • With maturity and age, flare ups will gradually decrease as the amount of Yang in the body becomes more in balance with Yin
Benefits of Massage for Lupus

Many people with Lupus greatly benefit from massage as it: 

  • Induces the relaxation response
  • Releases endorphins that make you feel good
  • Reduces inflammation and soreness, leaving clients able to move comfortably, and experience less exhaustion and physical pain
  • Can be beneficial to circulation and other body systems affected by Lupus, as it can help feed the tissues oxygen and nutrients, which can help organs function better 
  • Having a caring, nurturing, relaxing touch can help decrease stress for a client with Lupus, and in turn, help them cope with their symptoms
  • Being in the parasympathetic state of the nervous system can help the body repair and recharge 
Some treatments and massage guidelines that are helpful include: 

  • Stretching
  • Reflexology
  • Swedish Massage
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Lymphatic Drainage, and
  • Deep Pressure, if clients constitution is strong
Start off with a 15-30 minute massage to see how client feels, if they respond positively, you can proceed with a full 60 minute massage.

If a client is currently experiencing a flare up with fever, rash, or other symptoms, you should postpone the massage, or try energy work or light touch, as deep pressure can exacerbate Lupus during a flare up.

Just having light touch or energy work can still induce relaxation, which a client with Lupus will benefit from.

Clients should always maintain clear communication with their Massage Therapist about what is going on with their body and where they are experiencing pain.

As a Massage Therapist, you should always listen to the clients body and never push it further than their constitution limits. 

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