About Lupus

Jessica’s Coping with Lupus Corner

Consider Massage to Help Manage Pain and Stress

Jessica Rowshandel, M.S.W.
Jessica, Rowshandel, M.S.W.
Director of Social Services
S.L.E. Lupus Foundation

Most people would agree that they could use a good massage. But for people with lupus, massage therapy may be an effective complementary treatment for managing pain and stress. Now, New Yorkers with lupus can better afford massage therapy because a group of compassionate professionals created the Lupus Project to offer a sliding scale fee. I’ve provided information below to help you find out more about why massage is helpful and how to select an affordable as well as well-qualified massage therapist.

How Does Massage Therapy Help People with Lupus

Reducing pain is important because it helps increase mobility and activity level. Many people with lupus have shared with me their frustrations of not being able to do many of the things they used to do because of pain and fatigue. Similarly, it is particularly important for people with lupus to reduce stress. Stress can have a wide variety of psychological and physical side effects, and, as you know, stress can help trigger flares, which can be quite severe. The American Massage Therapy Association has compiled research findings on the benefits of massage therapy for a variety of chronic conditions, which you can read about here.

So it makes sense to consider massage therapy as a way to reduce pain and stress in your life – with your doctor’s approval, of course!

The Lupus Project: Making Therapy More Affordable

I recently interviewed Samantha Paige-Graeber, a licensed massage therapist who chairs the American Massage Therapy Association-NY (AMTA-NY) Chapter’s Community Service Massage Team. This is a team of AMTA-NY-members who are in private practice and who volunteer their time at least once a year to provide free massages at events throughout New York State (NYS). These can include charity events, fundraisers, and wellness events like Living Life Healthy with Lupus that we at the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation hold every year in conjunction with the Hospital for Special Surgery. Since 2008, Samantha and her team have been volunteering their time to provide free massages to people with lupus at this event.

Last year, the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and Samantha, along with AMTA National, created the Lupus Project, a pilot program to bring affordable massage therapy to people with lupus in NYS.   A group of AMTA-NY members have agreed to offer a sliding scale fee to people with lupus. Samantha and her colleagues created this program because they recognized the benefits that massage has for people with lupus and also realized that many were on a fixed or limited income. They felt that only offering massage for 10 minutes at a time once a year at our event was unfair if the people receiving the massages could not afford to continue the therapy. From this sensitive and generous observation, the Lupus Project was born. Click here for the list of therapists who participate in the Lupus Project.

We in New York are fortunate to have this program; if it is well-received here, the AMTA will take the program to other states and make it available nationally for people with lupus.

Tips for People with Lupus Trying Out Massage Therapy

Remember while massage therapy benefits many people, it might not be the right treatment modality for you. But if your physician recommends you try it, please tell your therapist if you are feeling any pain so she or he can modify or end the session. Samantha also cautioned: “If you are experiencing a lupus flare up with possible fever, open lesions, a rash or other signs and symptoms, you should postpone the massage. In addition, let the massage therapist know you have been on corticosteroid therapy or any other medication.”

Samantha also wrote an article for us detailing what to look for when choosing a massage therapist you feel most comfortable with. Reading about how massage therapists educate each other about how to best work with someone who has lupus can also help you learn what to expect from a good therapist. “Massage is very personal and there should be a connection between the therapist and client; a level of trust and communication is extremely important. That chemistry may not be found with the first therapist so find one you can work with.” Learn even more about what to expect from a massage therapy session on the AMTA’s website.

Does anyone have experience with massage? If so, how has it worked for you? Visit the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lupusny to share your experience with other people with lupus.

Visit our website for other simple suggestions, print brochures, catch up on our past webinars to learn more about lupus and share the information on your social media pages.

Update: We are no longer accepting comments on our site, but please share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Ask Jessica!

Disclaimer: This website and its contents are designed for educational purposes only. Jessica Rowshandel, MSW is the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s Director of Social Services. She is not a physician. The advice provided is for educational and informational purposes and the Foundation does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment or therapy. The information provided here should not be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating a medical or psychiatric illness. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional care. Lupus is a very individualized illness; consult a healthcare professional before making any decisions about your care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider. Telephone calls, emails, and online content do not constitute counseling services in any way. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation does not provide any medical or psychological services to its patients and users. For an accurate medical or mental health evaluation, participants should seek an evaluation from a qualified healthcare professional. S.L.E. Lupus Foundation employees, consultants, and agents shall not be liable for any claims or damages, and expressly disclaim all liability of any nature for any action or non-action taken as a result of the information generated by the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation programs and its website, as well as the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Facebook and Twitter pages.