Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body attacks itself as if it were a foreign body--like a virus--that poses a health threat. People who have lupus, also referred to as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), do not all show the same symptoms. The disease can affect muscles, joints, the skin and other organs throughout the body. Common symptoms of lupus can include a rash, fever, muscle pain and kidney dysfunction. In addition to medications to help keep lupus symptoms in check, alternative methods such as massage can be beneficial to lupus sufferers.
Pain relief is a benefit that some people with lupus may experience through massage therapy. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, massage may not be appropriate for those who have a form of the condition called cutaneous lupus, as the touch to the skin may actually aggravate symptoms. However, patients who do not display skin involvement may be ideal candidates for massage.
According to the New York chapter of the SLE Lupus Foundation, massage releases endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers. The bodywork can also relieve physical tension in the muscles that may be contributing to pain.
Massage can be beneficial to circulation and other bodily systems that may be affected by lupus, including the kidneys, according to the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) The manipulation of the body during massage, similar to that of acupuncture or acupressure, may promote better circulation and encourage the cleansing organs of the liver and kidneys to function more effectively. The massaging of tissues during several types of massage can help oxygen and other nutrients feed the body's tissues, enabling the organs to perform at a higher rate of function.
A massage is relaxing to most people, and this is no exception to people who have lupus. The physical relaxation and rubbing of the muscles not only releases endorphins to conquer pain, but also helps damaged muscles leave some of their tension behind. Stress--both physical and emotional--can cause a person to tense up, leaving him more open to inflammation and aching muscles. The physical nature of the massaging touch can invigorate the spirit as well as the body, and leaves some of the stress of chronic illness behind. The spring 2005 issue of "Lupus Now" magazine explains that some complementary therapies, like massage, give patients the boost they need to manage their condition more effectively because they are more relaxed.