Here is an Answer To Questions Article that was published on in October of 2012. The question was, I have neuropathy in the legs. What’s the best type of massage for that?

A neuropathy in the legs, or more specifically, a Peripheral Neuropathy Is a condition which involves the damage, deterioration or destruction of the peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside of our brain). This can be a very serious condition and should be treated as such. Any massage protocols considered should be discussed with your primary doctor. That being said, here are a couple of thoughts about specific and general massage treatments.

I think it is important to determine the cause and classification of the neuropathy before trying to consider possible specific massage therapies for the condition. Do you know the cause of the neuropathy or is it idiopathic? Is there a confirmed diagnosis? Do you trust the diagnoses (neuropathies can be very difficult to diagnose)? Does the diagnosis indicate the possibility of a cure for the condition or a positive treatment for the symptoms and effects of the neuropathy? Can you still discern the amount of pressure being applied in the affected areas so you can warn your massage therapist if the pressure is too great?

You should have as many answers as possible to those questions prior to asking a massage therapist for a specific treatment plan for your condition. This goes for almost any specific condition that you are looking for relief from. It is also a good idea to ask your primary care provider if they have any specific massage therapy protocols that they believe would be helpful for your condition as well as any that they would recommend be avoided. This can help get everybody on the “same team”.

It is important to note that as a Licensed Massage Practitioner I am not medically qualified or legally allowed to make this type of diagnosis. I also need to be careful to make sure that any protocols I consider for your condition are well thought out and do not impede the healing process or even worse, exacerbate the medical condition. I need to consider any medications that are being taken in association with the diagnosis and treatment plan as well as other possible related or contributing conditions (diabetes, nutrition, changing muscle recruitment patterns, etc.).

As a massage therapist trying to relieve the symptoms of a neuropathy it is important that I understand the normal dermatomic or neural pathways and how those might be being affected and changed by the condition. How I can promote healthy circulation within and around the affected dermatomes and ultimately the specifically affected nerves without causing any damage by working too deep.

As I understand it, the best type of massage for the most common symptoms reported in cases of actual or suspected peripheral neuropathies (numbness, tingling, burning sensation, pain with movement, etc.) is circulatory massage; massage that promotes blood flow to the affected area as well as to the neural network affecting that area. The massage should be gentle, well thought out and discussed with the patient and the other members of the patient’s health care team.

In cases where these symptoms are caused by things such as rehabilitatable injuries, repetitive motion stresses, manageable contributing disease, nutritional deficiencies, postural imbalances, etc. specific relief through the use of massage therapy can be very possible. In other conditions where the nerves are more permanently damaged, massage can be beneficial in treating the symptoms, relaxing the client and/or minimizing the spread of the condition and its effects.

Joe Lavin
October 1, 2012