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Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that manifests in a variety of ways. Some common symptoms include fatigue, fever, joint stiffness and pain, shortness of breath, chest pain and dry eyes.

As with most diseases, how a client is affected will be as individual as the symptoms they experience. The key to providing care is to emphasize the calming nature of massage therapy. Clients with lupus may be experiencing so much pain already, that  massage needs to be tolerable and, hopefully, pleasant enough that they can relax.

Massage reduces stress, increases energy and alertness, and much more.  For someone with lupus, massage can help them take back control of the way they feel day to day. Many people with lupus say that they feel refreshed and relaxed after a session with a massage therapist. Massage increases pain relieving endorphins (the feel-good hormones), and reduces inflammation and soreness—leaving clients able to move more comfortably and therefore experiencing less of the exhaustion and physical pain of lupus.

If a client is experiencing a lupus flare-up and showing signs of fever, open lesions or a rash, he or should postpone his or her massage appointment. It is also important to know if a client has been on corticosteroid therapy or any other medications prior to starting massage therapy, and consultation should be made with the client’s medical doctor.

As with managing pain (which will also be part of working with clients with lupus), good communication skills are necessary when working with this population. Because of the episodic nature of lupus, it is important to listen to your client’s needs, creating an open dialogue that will help both you and the client find what works best. This will help to focus on the areas that they feel need attention. Clients should let you know if they feel you are helping or if there is any pain. Any pain is not well tolerated and doesn’t lead to good results.

These clients may have a hard time getting on and off a table, so if you have an adjustable table, make sure you ask a client with lupus if they need the height of the table changed or consider whether chair massage may be more appropriate.  Though perhaps not possible for every practice, make your space as accessible as you can. Look at your practice from the perspective of someone whose pain may limit mobility. How are the widths of your doorways? Is your treatment room large enough for someone in a wheelchair to access and move around in?

Taking measures to help make their massage appointments more comfortable and accessible will help lupus sufferers to find relief and pain management with massage therapy.

©The Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks
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