In 1999, I was diagnosed with ALS. I was told at the time that there is no cure and no treatment. Gee!!! My first reaction was to sit in a corner and cry. I did that for a while and soon realized that it didn't change my situation and people really didn't want to be around me. So I decided to just get on with my life and live my life as best I could.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have a very slow progressing form of ALS. Yes, I am now in a wheelchair, and I need help with ordinary daily activities, but my mind is still active and I'm still able to enjoy some of the things I used to do. In short, I am still me.
Since there is no cure and no treatment available, I decided to seek out my own ways to feel better and improve my quality of life. One of the things that I found helped me was to get regular massage therapy.
Massage increases blood circulation and relaxes the tightness in your muscles. It helps my back pain (caused by sitting all day), can prevent or delay muscle atrophy due to inactivity, and the gentle stretching can aid in increasing range of motion. It helps me relax, and it helps remove toxins from my body, and generally makes me feel good all over.
Understand that there are many different types of massage therapy. The best known is Swedish massage, but there is also deep tissue massage, Asian massage, and something I found called craniosacral massage or therapy.
I was extremely lucky to find a massage therapist who is trained in most of the above therapies. Her name is Nikki Albert. She has a massage studio half a mile from my home in Tempe, Ariz. That makes it very convenient for me. It works out that I can go to her studio by myself in my power wheelchair. The ride takes about 15 minutes, and I enjoy seeing the trees, grass and birds up close, something you miss riding in a car. She has an extra-wide table that can electronically be moved higher or lower as needed. This way, she can help me get on and off the table easily, and without hurting my back or twisting my body.
For many years I've had digestive issues because I get little or no exercise. When Nikki works on me, she also does something called “internal organ massage,” which massages my stomach to get my digestive system moving. Abdominal massage can stimulate your digestive system and aid your colon in moving waste. She also has used peppermint oil on my abdomen to help alleviate constipation issues.
It is very important to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and who is experienced in working with people with disabilities. Ask how long they have been practicing and if they are licensed and certified. Are you more comfortable with a man or a woman working on you? I have had both experiences; personally, I feel more comfortable with a woman. Nikki has very healing gentle hands and is very discreet.
You may disrobe as much or as little as you are comfortable. Try to get referrals, or you can go through an organization called AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association). Be sure to explain your particular situation. Have all your questions and concerns addressed before you go. Ask about cost. Most therapy sessions are an hour and can range from $50 an hour to $80 an hour, or more.
I've also found that this is a great gift … hint, hint. If someone wants to give you a gift (birthdays, Valentine's Day, Christmas), a gift certificate for a massage is a beautiful way to say “I care.”
About the Author
Originally a New Yorker, I moved to Arizona in 1988 with my husband Phil. I worked as an engineering administrator for TRW for many years. In 1999, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, and later it was determined to be a slow-progressing form of ALS. I now use a power wheelchair full time, and I need help with many daily activities. I refuse to let it stop me. I still love to travel. This past March I put together a group of seven people, and we took a wheelchair-accessible tour of Israel. I began to write a blog to tell some of my stories ... and vent some of my frustrations. My motto is never take NO for an answer.
Bonnie Guzelf lives in Tempe, Ariz. Check out her blog, Wheelchair-Accessible Arizona and More.