When Kathleen Stoddart was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) two years ago, she knew there would be some things she couldn’t control. But, when she realized some things were within her control, she immediately got to work.
“When I was diagnosed with RA, one thing the doctor mentioned was smoking,” recalls Kathleen. “I had been a smoker for a long time. “I kept thinking that if there was any behavior I had that contributed to making my RA worse, I would do anything to change it. Within a month of my diagnosis, I quit smoking completely.”
Kathleen’s life changes didn’t stop there. She began swimming for exercise and taking her medications faithfully. Even while taking medications, Kathleen still experienced frequent aches and pains. After another visit with her doctor, Kathleen received a second diagnosis — fibromyalgia.
“I started having all of these aches in my neck and my elbows that just weren’t getting any better,” says Kathleen. “Then my doctor started checking the trigger points for fibromyalgia, and I almost jumped off the table. I had no idea that I could have fibromyalgia on top on RA.”
In her continued search for ways that she could help manage her pain, Kathleen stumbled upon a new Massage Envy location in her neighborhood. Businesses such as Massage Envy have expanded with locations nationwide to make massage therapy more accessible and convenient for everyone.
“While I was at the grand opening, I talked to the lead massage therapist about my medical issues and about how cautious I was to start massage because of my pain,” says Kathleen. “She seemed very knowledgeable and understanding.”
After attending the the grand opening, she decided to give massage a try — and she’s not alone. As massage becomes more well-known for its benefits as part of an overall treatment plan, more and more people like Kathleen are turning to regular massages to control pain and de-stress.
“Most people go to massage therapists to reduce pain,” explains Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida. “There’s a release of serotonin, which is the body’s natural production of anti-pain chemicals. Additionally, an aggravating factor in pain syndromes can be a lack of deep, restorative sleep. Massage is very effective at increasing deep sleep. With more deep sleep, you have less pain.”
Kathleen, who now sees her massage therapist twice a month, has experienced a gradual increase of benefits from massage.
“Since I started seeing my massage therapist, I have learned about massage and its cumulative effects,” says Kathleen. “When I first started, my massage therapist could barely apply any pressure. As we continued on, the pain and knots in my body began to release more and more. I feel so energized now.”
Because the symptoms of chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia and RA can change from day to day, it’s important to establish a collaborative relationship with your massage therapist.
“Right off the bat, I felt like we were a team,” says Kathleen of her relationship with her massage therapist. “There are some appointments when I walk in feeling great. At others, I’m right in the middle of a big flare. Knowing these things about me helps her tailor the sessions for how I am feeling at the time. It’s a true partnership.”
As Kathleen continues to get used to life with RA and fibromyalgia, she has three goals: to be able to stop taking prednisone, to be free of pain and to be at a healthy weight.
“I am taking this opportunity as a chance to make all of the healthy choices I can,” says Kathleen. “The difference between where I was a year ago versus now is amazing.”
- A Healing Touch: The Benefits of Massage for Arthritis
- Kelli Schandel: Why I’m a Massage Envy Member
- Benefits of Hand Massage for Arthritis
- Learn more about Healing Hands for Arthritis