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Can massage relieve symptoms of neuropathy?

Walking on hot coals or sharp needles, burning and uncomfortable pain at night, sudden weakness or numbness in your feet or hands when doing daily tasks. These are just a few of many symptoms of peripheral neuropathy that interrupt daily life and send you into a looping pain cycle. Neuropathy is usually not a stand alone issue so finding relief will involve considering the source of the nerve damage. Let's sort through different causes of neuropathy and consider when massage can help.

According to, the definition of peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord usually affecting the hands and feet. Causes of neuropathy include issues grouped into traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes, and exposure to toxins. The most common cause being diabetes.

Once you acknowledge where the nerve damage has come from the next step is to consider the symptom cycle you are in and determine a goal to interrupt the cycle.

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For example, if you have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and the symptoms are keeping you from sleeping, it may then cause you to be too tired to feel like exercising or making healthier food choices and the cycle continues with more lost sleep. In this example you can identify that a goal of improved sleep will interrupt and break the symptom cycle.

Now with the perspective from this information, make a list of possible ideas to reach your goal for your unique situation and discuss with your health provider. To follow the example started above the list might include prescription medication, massage, exercise, acupuncture, physical therapy, or a combination of these or other ideas.

So when does massage fit in as a possible solution? Massage therapy increases circulation to the tissue in the legs and arms, as well as the hands and feet, that nerves live in and travel through. Increasing circulation calms the tissue and creates an atmosphere the nerves can work more efficiently in, even if they are damaged. Massage will not heal damaged nerves. Instead massage can be an effective tool to support the body while the nerves are healing or when the body is adjusting to a new ‘normal’ with damaged nerves. This support can be enough for some people to make a pain become a slight discomfort. Others might find for their situation, Massage Therapy paired with Physical Therapy or a special diet or medication can help manage symptoms.

In many cases, it has taken time for the body to develop this symptom cycle and it might take some time to interrupt it. If you are interested in massage to help manage your neuropathy, I recommend communicating and discussing the following information with your massage therapist:

  • What damaged your nerves to create the neuropathy

  • Any medication you are currently taking

  • Describe all the sensations you have been experiencing including burning pain, sharp pain, numbness

  • Discuss any changes felt 1 to 3 days after each session

Discussing this information with your massage therapist creates a team effort of creating a custom massage treatment to reach your goal. The amount of pressure and type of massage techniques will vary depending on your pain sensations and amount of numbness. The feedback you have a few days after a massage session can be useful information to share with your healthcare provider to talk through adjusting the pairing of pain reducing solutions.

Do you have more questions if massage therapy could help in your situation? Feel free to contact Rita Sandquist Massage Therapy to set up a phone consultation.

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