How Massage Can Help with Autoimmune Diseases

One well-researched and documented benefit of massage therapy is its ability to boost of the body’s own defense against disease – the immune system. Good health depends on a well-functioning immune system. But many suffer such severe impairment of their immune systems that the body’s own defense system actually turns on their own bodies and becomes the cause rather than the prevention of disease. 

What Are Autoimmune Diseases?

There is a wide range—between eighty and one-hundred-twenty conditions— known generally as autoimmune disease. These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and possibly even fibromyalgia. An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease, or one-sixth of the population, including children, adults and the elderly. Women represent 75 percent of those affected. Causes include viruses such as Epstein-Barr, Coxsackievirus B and Herpes Simplex, as well as some bacteria and protozoa. Environmental conditions also can contribute. 

Clinically speaking, an autoimmune disease is a breakdown of self-tolerance, the body’s ability to distinguish its own cells from foreign invaders—antigens and pathogens. The body attacks its own cells because of an inability of white blood cells to read protein markers upon cell membranes.

How Massage Can Help

Unlike most other conditions, autoimmune diseases require some modification of general massage techniques. First of all, deeper pressure isn’t necessarily more beneficial. Sometimes the lightest touch or gentle settings in a massage chair can provide the most profound benefits, particularly if you are carrying a lot of inflammation. Also, “No pain no gain” doesn’t apply here. If anything feels uncomfortable during a massage treatment, back off. 

Third, unlike some guidelines in other situations, shorter treatments may be better, especially at first. Consider thirty-minute sessions to start with. Fourth, schedule self-care after a massage. It’s best to avoid strenuous activity, drink lots of water, and do something to support your body’s natural detox pathways, like taking an Epsom salt bath. This will double the benefit by extending the relaxation, while support the healing potential of your massage.

A Testimonial 

One woman with MS, Alsinia Hutzler of Phoenix, Arizona, who receives regular massage therapy and other types of bodywork, says they have benefitted her in many ways.

 “I am a 47-year-old woman living a productive life with relapsing remitting MS,” she said. “Life with MS is day-to-day, but with the help of massage therapy, I do very well.”

Autoimmune disease can be debilitating and may trigger psychological side-effects that make it even more difficult to bear. Massage, including treatment provided by a premium massage chair, can provide both immediate and long-term relief. 

“Understanding Autoimmune Diseases and How the Bodywork Therapist May Help.” CenterPoint Massage Shiatsu Therapy School and Clinic, 13 Apr. 2018,

Gialelis, Jimmy. “Autoimmune Disease: A Breakdown of Self-Tolerance.” MASSAGE Magazine, Massage Magazine, 20 Apr. 2017,

Laird, Eileen. “Is Massage Therapy Beneficial for People with Autoimmune Disease?” Phoenix Helix, 4 Mar. 2018,