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Many students are drawn to massage therapy college because of a desire to help others achieve optimal health and wellbeing. While therapeutic massage is indeed a valuable resource for everyday stress relief and relaxation, the practice is also beneficial for patients battling a range of serious diseases. Massage therapy training encompasses a wide variety of techniques that MTs can adapt according to patient needs. It is well known that massage therapy has tremendous power to sooth and comfort patients on an emotional level. They have an intuitive appreciation for the healing power of touch - an understanding that is both grounded and enhanced by theoretical and practical training. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is one of those diseases - and increasingly, clients with ALS turn to MTs to help them cope with significant physical and emotional challenges. The first signs of disease typically manifest in the limbs, as weakness or difficulty controlling muscles.

Clients with varying stages of ALS - from initial reduced mobility to complete muscle atrophy - will require different approaches. We also understand that stress and anxiety are great contributors to disease, which only underscores the importance of regular massage to our overall health and vitality.
As students learn about neuroanatomy, pathology, and the musculoskeletal system in class, and work directly with patients as interns, they become increasingly aware of the incredibly diverse clinical applications of massage therapy.
This is because the muscle neurons are slowly dying, and can no longer receive signals from the brain. In most cases, massage therapists will use techniques that promote circulation and range of motion to maintain muscle control for as long as possible. For patients with ALS, massage therapy has been reported to be very helpful for maintaining peace of mind and spirit.
Over time, as more and more neurons degenerate, muscles throughout the body become unresponsive and atrophied.

Massage therapy is also very helpful in relaxing muscles that are prone to spasm and aching as ALS patients begin to lose function in their arms and legs. For patients with very little muscle mass remaining, MTs will often chose to provide relief from discomfort by focussing on the head, hands and feet.
The patient is entirely aware of the collapse of their musculoskeletal system, and often experiences a great deal of pain and mental distress.
It is important for MTs to familiarize themselves with all the stages of ALS, and to tailor treatments accordingly.
When administered skillfully, massage therapy can ease both the psychological and physical suffering of patients.

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