Are Massages Safe and Helpful for Psoriasis? | MyPsoriasisTeam

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Are Massages Safe and Helpful for Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Written by Suzanne Mooney
Posted on May 10, 2023

For many people, the idea of a massage creates feelings of peace and relaxation. If you are living with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA), however, it might raise concerns instead. Will the massage make your psoriasis symptoms worse? Should you ask what kind of lotion they use? Should you warn the massage therapist about your scaly patches or lesions?

Rest assured, you can schedule that massage appointment you’ve been thinking about or let your loved one give you the daily scalp massage you enjoy so much. Just make sure you discuss it with your health care provider first.

“It’s soothing when my girlfriend massages my whole scalp,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “I have a lot of pain in my feet and legs,” said another. “I’m getting acupuncture and massage therapy to see if it helps.”

In this article, we share the potential risks and benefits of massage therapy and tell you about safe ways to receive a massage.

What Is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is the manipulation of muscles and other soft tissues in the body using a variety of techniques, movements, and pressures. It should be performed by a licensed massage therapist who has studied anatomy, physiology, and other relevant topics and earned any credentials required by their state or local government.

Types of Massage

There are many different types of massage therapy with therapeutic and relaxation benefits. Knowing which type you are looking for can help you research and identify a massage therapist who can help. Here are some types of massage therapy to consider:

  • Swedish massage
  • Deep-tissue massage
  • Lymphatic massage
  • Scalp massage
  • Myofascial release
  • Trigger point massage
  • Reflexology

Swedish and deep-tissue massage are typically full-body massages that relieve stress, promote relaxation, and relieve muscle tightness and chronic (ongoing) muscle pain.

Lymphatic massage is an anti-inflammatory therapy that increases the flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

Lymphatic massage is a gentle technique designed to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that help to remove toxins, waste products, and excess fluids from the body’s tissues. (Adobe Stock)

Scalp massage can reduce stress and blood pressure. People living with scalp psoriasis may also find that it relieves symptoms and is an effective way to apply topical treatments and moisturizers. “I use an oil that my dermatologist prescribed and massage my scalp a few times a day with it,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member.

Receiving a scalp massage can help you feel relaxed and reduce stress. Scalp massages can also improve blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, and improve lymphatic drainage, and they may help you sleep better. (Adobe Stock)

Myofascial release targets the fascia, a web of connective tissue under the skin.

Trigger point massage focuses on a specific spot — like a knot in the neck or back — to release tension and increase blood flow.

Trigger point massage focuses on relieving areas of pain and tension in the body. Trigger points are areas of tightness in the muscles that can be tender to the touch, causing pain and stiffness. (Adobe Stock)

Reflexology is an alternative medicine practice that targets energy pathways in the body, similar to acupuncture. One MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I recommend reflexology of the feet with a good reflexologist. It has helped me tremendously.”

There are many types of massage therapy to consider. If you have questions about which type is best for you, ask your health care provider or a licensed massage therapist for guidance.

Benefits of Massage

The benefits of massage vary depending on your treatment goals. For example, an athlete pursuing massage therapy for rehabilitation after a sports injury likely has different priorities than a high-level executive getting a massage for stress relief.

Discuss your goals with your massage therapist before your appointment so they can help you experience the benefit you’re looking for.

General Health Benefits of Massage

According to Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that massage therapy can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Provide pain relief
  • Ease muscle tension
  • Increase relaxation
  • Support the immune system

Massages can also improve circulation to increase blood flow, decrease joint inflammation, improve flexibility, and help you sleep better at night.

Health Benefits of Massage for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

If you are living with psoriasis or PsA, can massage therapy help? The National Psoriasis Foundation says yes. In addition to soothing psoriasis triggers, like stress, or PsA side symptoms like joint pain and stiffness, massage therapy can improve your mood, studies have shown.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that massage is effective at alleviating symptoms of depression. Although the study authors noted that more research is needed, this is good news for people with psoriatic disease. According to a different study, approximately 40 percent of people with psoriatic disease are more likely to be depressed than the general public.

So, whether you are trying to reduce stress, find pain relief, improve your mood, or address other goals, massage therapy may be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan.

What MyPsoriasisTeam Members Say About Massage

Several MyPsoriasisTeam members commented on massage therapy:

  • “I would recommend a chiropractic office for serious deep tissue massage, not just the spa for a lighter massage.”
  • “I have plaque psoriasis and PsA and find massages very helpful.”
  • “I am getting massages weekly for one month and then moving to twice a month.”
  • “I massage my heel daily to get better blood circulation and relief from spur pain.”
  • “I like to massage shea butter on my peeling fingertips. It helps!”
  • “When I get neck pain, I massage it with lavender oil mixed with coconut oil.”
  • “I start each day with a gentle myofascial massage of my forearms, taking care not to cause more irritation but enough to improve circulation.”

As with many interventions for skin conditions and autoimmune diseases, what works for some people may not work for everyone. One MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I have tried physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, ultrasound, and exercise. Nothing has helped my pain.”

Risks of Massage

In addition to providing benefits, massage therapy also presents potential risks and side effects. While these will vary from person to person, here are some to consider:

  • Skin irritation from oils or lotions
  • Flare-ups caused by skin trauma, heat, or other triggers
  • Aggravation of an existing psoriasis flare

If you use topical steroids or ultraviolet (UV) therapy to treat psoriasis, changes to your skin cells — like thinning or sensitivity — could make you more prone to irritation.

Despite the risks, most people with psoriasis or PsA should be able to experience a massage safely and comfortably with proper planning and effective communication.

How To Safely Get a Massage

Massage therapy can be safe and helpful in treating psoriasis and PsA, but be proactive to ensure the experience is a positive one. Here are several tips:

  • Ask your health care provider if massage therapy is safe for you.
  • Tell the massage therapist you have psoriasis or PsA.
  • Although experienced massage therapists should be familiar with common skin diseases like psoriasis, you should be prepared to educate them if they are not. Make sure they understand it’s not contagious.
  • Ask which essential oils and lotions they use, and inform them of any ingredients that may irritate your skin.
  • If you have lotions that relieve dry skin without irritation, consider bringing them with you.
  • If heat and sweating are psoriasis triggers for you, ask the massage therapist to adjust the room and table temperature.
  • Tell the massage therapist if you are experiencing a psoriasis flare or inflamed joints so they can avoid those areas.
  • If your flare-up is severe, consider rescheduling your appointment.
  • If you experience any discomfort, tell the massage therapist immediately.
  • Note any side effects you experience after the appointment and discuss them with your doctor or the massage therapist.

Another way to safely get a massage is by performing a self-massage at home. Using your own lotions and oils in a relaxed and comfortable environment can provide some of the same benefits as a professional massage.

“I regularly massage my face, jaw, ankles, calves, and knees,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “It increases circulation, which is sometimes a problem with all the swelling. Just a light self-massage for five minutes is all it takes.”

If you need relief in hard-to-reach places, consider asking your partner or a trusted friend or family member to help.

The Bottom Line

Talk to your health care provider before trying massage therapy or other integrative treatment options for psoriasis or PsA. To minimize risks and ensure that massage therapy is safe and effective, you may want to consult with your health care provider and find a massage therapist who has experience working with people with psoriasis. Your therapist should also be willing to modify their techniques to avoid any areas of your body affected by psoriasis and use gentle pressure to avoid further skin damage.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 117,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Have you had a massage that improved your symptoms of psoriasis or PsA? Were there any side effects? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on May 10, 2023
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    Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Suzanne Mooney writes about people, pets, health and wellness, and travel. Learn more about her here.

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