woman having massage therapy for stroke recovery

Massage Therapy and Stroke Recovery

What is a stroke?

Strokes are caused by a blood clot travelling through the circulatory system to the brain. There, it can get stuck in a blood vessel, blocking blood flow and depriving the brain of vital oxygen and nutrients. This damages the affected area of the brain. Functions related to the damaged area may not work such as speech, motor function and nerve transmission. This can cause paralysis and communication difficulties.  Massage therapy can help with stroke recovery.

How can massage therapy help stroke victims?

Since strokes are the result of inadequate circulation, massage therapy can be useful because it can help move circulation better. Limbs that may not be working normally after a stroke, may need massage therapy to help keep circulation moving through muscles that may no longer be working.  As well, massage can help to reduce pain associated with muscles that may be compensating for the loss of use, or reduced, use of others. Whether there is permanent paralysis, or the client is recovering, massage can help manage or reduce pain, and improve tissue health.

What Does the Research Say About Massage Therapy for Stroke Recovery?

  • Therapeutic massage seems to decrease anxiety and pain, increase health-related quality of life, and improve sensorimotor functions after stroke
  • Findings from high-quality systematic reviews describe the potential benefits of massage for pain indications including labour, shoulder, neck, back, cancer, fibromyalgia, and temporomandibular disorder.

Research on Massage Therapy and Stroke Recovery

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Feb 4;16:50. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1029-9.
Does touch massage facilitate recovery after stroke? A study protocol of a randomized controlled trial.
Lämås K1, Häger C2, Lindgren L3, Wester P4, Brulin C5.

Massage for Pain: An Evidence Map [Internet].
Editors: Miake-Lye I, Lee J, Lugar T, Taylor S, Shanman R, Beroes J, Shekelle P.
Source Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2016 Sep.
VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program Reports.