Pathologies, Massage and Contraindications Part 4 Parkinson’s Disease – By Vanessa Ragains

We dedicated last week to how massage can benefit a client with Depression. Massage Therapy can support a client by decreasing anxiety and increasing relaxation. Remembering that medications should only be reduced with the support of their physician. Parkinson’s Disease will be our next subject! My opinion section comes from working with clients who suffer from this disease. I will share easy techniques in how to communicate effectively and break down of what Parkinson’s actually is. 

Pathologies, Massage and Contraindications Part 4 Parkinson’s Disease

….First a bit of history

Parkinson’s Disease History: First discussed by a British Physician James Parkinson in 1817 and was named “shaking palsy”. He explained how it was a moving disorder involving the progressive degeneration of nerve tissue, and a reduction in neurotransmitter production in the CNS.

The Facts: 

  • It affects 1.5 Million people in the Us over age 60.
  • Men with PD outnumber women by about 3 to 2.

Early Symptoms:

  • General stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Resting tremor in hand, foot, or head
  • Slowed movements

Later Symptoms:

  • Muscle rigidity
  • Poor balance
  • Shuffling gait
  • Masklike appearance to the face
  • Monotone voice

Clients with Parkinson’s will be under strict medical care with constant observations with medication levels. It’s important to be aware of any medication changes so that you can figure out if massage could be a contraindication. This communication usually happens through the family or caretaker. Most clients will have support in many areas for maintaining muscle function with stretches, daily exercises, and practicing speech to work the larynx that seems to weaken along with other major muscles that we use to speak.

Alternative therapies include Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, and Nutritionists when used on a regular basis can provide the client with extra relief. Especially, with all the stress that comes with this diagnosis in the first place!

Massage Risks: 

With limited muscle function, the client may have difficulty getting on or off the table. In certain situations, the client will be older and may encounter other disorders or medical issues that will need to be addressed.

Massage Benefits:

Clients with Parkinson’s can use Massage Therapy to increase the quality of their sleep. Massage also decreases anxiety, depression, and muscle rigidity in these clients. Because Massage has rarely any negative side effects, it is common to receive this type of therapy for clients with Parkinson’s disease.

My Opinion: 

I have had the opportunity to work with 2 clients who are dealing with Parkinson’s disease. The main challenge for the client seems to be communication in any form. For example, I attempted to book a session with a new client and was unable to understand anything my client was trying to explain to me over the phone. I collected an email address in an attempt to communicate this way. The caretaker called me back and we were able to set up a session. After this, I researched how to effectively communicate with a client with Parkinson’s. It mentioned asking Yes or No questions and to speak slower. Not like the person is incapable of hearing you, but more so they can process what you are saying. I have found that just like with any language barrier, the fact that you are patient and try hard to communicate clearly is very much appreciated. Showing frustration can cause the client to become anxious and frustrated. It is very important to practice communicating with your client in order for your sessions to be successful.

Here is an article to support communicating with clients who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease:


On the topic of Massage technique, both clients wanted the firm/deeper pressure. Working with the client in maintaining range of motion within each joint and incorporating this into each session can support them throughout their week. Both of these clients received massage sessions each week. After each session, they expressed that they felt more relaxed and thanked me for supporting them. Research shows that massage is most beneficial in small increments one time each week. My personal experience with massage, in general, is the more often the better! I typically do 90-minute sessions for Parkinson’s clients each week. If the client needs a break, which may happen in the middle of their session, we take that break and continue where we left off.

Here is an article regarding the benefits Massage has on Parkinson’s clients:


My overall experience with working closely to clients with Parkinson’s is that it is incredibly rewarding to see their relaxed face after the session is complete. They are so grateful to receive the session and always look forward to the following week.

Is there a Pathology you would be interested in reading about? I would love your suggestions on certain pathologies that you may need to see in the breakdown. Check back next week for our next discussion on Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications!

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog. I am looking forward to reviewing common and uncommon Pathologies that we may encounter on our journey of being a Massage therapist. For all you awesome clients out there, I hope you learn why massage can actually be contraindicated with certain pathologies and precautions you and your therapist need to take.

I LOVE YOUR QUESTIONS!! Please feel free to ask me a question or comment about what you read today. Looking forward to hearing from radical Folks like yourself!


All this information come from one of my must-have books for the massage career: A Massage Therapist Guide to Pathology. 5th Edition Author: Ruth Werner



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