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Massage: The complimentary treatment for Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder which is believed to affect more than half a million people in the UK. The main symptom of epilepsy is unprovoked and uncontrollable seizures which can cause death in the most extreme cases. Although the symptoms of a seizure can affect many parts of the body, the direct causes come directly from the brain and the electrical charges. The specific area of the event, how fast it spreads, how long it lasts and what quantity of the brain all contribute to the severity of the seizure and it’s after effect on the individual.

Epilepsy is a life changing, crippling illness that can impact the working lives, relationships and safety of thousands of people; the cause often unknown. Whilst there are many forms of treatment available today, it has been found that massage therapy works as a complimentary addition to epilepsy treatment.   More specifically, studies have shown that the effects of massage can control and even prevent seizures from developing. As such, people with epilepsy could heighten their quality of life through this treatment.

Massage styles

As described by Bernhard Muller, ‘massage therapy is considered as a sole therapeutic approach, as well as in combination with other psycho- and neurophysiological approaches to seizure control.’Whilst most massage styles are beneficial in their own way, only specific styles are recommended depending on the symptoms and factors of each individual epileptic. However, these are the most widely-practiced massage styles of epileptics.

national epilepsy month

Classical Massage

While massage therapy alone cannot treat epilepsy, it can certainly compliment it. Studies have shown that massage therapy is most effective when used alongside anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), classical massage in particular shown to be an effective option. Research has shown that Swedish massage can alleviate the soreness from muscles after a seizure, after they become tight and cramped. In the book, Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Epilepsy, it is stated that, ‘massage has a natural place in helping people with epilepsy relax, learn to reduce stress, and possibly through self-massage, carry these positive attributes throughout their daily life.’

Stress is known to trigger seizures, so it’s important for an epileptic to remain as relaxed as possible at all times. A series of group studies conducted in Florida found that the benefits of classical massage, for reducing the possibility of seizures were largely consistent.  Researchers found that this style reduced anxiety and stress levels and improved mood and sleeping patterns; along with several other potentially seizure-triggering factors.


This style of massage uses essentials oils that are believed to have healing properties. Whilst there is around 400 types of oils, 40 are commonly used amongst therapists. The oils are the focused essences taken from seeds, flowers, fruit, leaves and the bark of certain plants, which are believed to boost well-being alleviate stress and refresh the body. The oil is often selected based on the client’s individual needs. For example, lavender oil is often used for a relaxing massage, whereas peppermint oil is effective for sore muscles.

Although it is believed that epileptics should stay clear of certain oils, scientific research conducted by Dr Tim Betts at the Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital, Birmingham shows that aromatherapy can help some people with this condition. The volunteers were asked to choose an oil of their choosing and underwent self-hypnosis in order to help them relax in the event of a seizure. Afterwards, they had their massage. The volunteers conditioned their ease to the smell of the oils, triggering a natural relaxation response. The results proved effective; with certain oils being particularly effective. However, patients were not advised to discontinue their medication.

Therapeutic Self-Massage

This style of massage is self-explanatory. It is a massage performed without the help of a trained masseuse. Although self-massage might seem unusual, it is an excellent style for an epileptic, as it teaches them self-control in respect of seizures. Although massage at the hand of an expert is in many ways more beneficial, self-massage is more practical in many senses. After all, epileptics won’t always be surrounded by people in the event of a seizure. Whilst no specific research has been conducted to fully examine the effects of self-massage, studies have shown that self-massage can reduce the potential factors that can provoke a seizure.


Acupressure is an ancient healing practice using fingers to gently apply pressure to specific healing points. This is believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing ability. Developed over 5,000 years ago, Acupressure is known for its effective relief of stress related ailments, and is a useful style to practice as part of self-massage. Variations of acupressure may be the most fascinating and advanced styles for individuals with this condition. Clinical studies have observed that more than 40% of 351 classical acupoints have been successfully used in suitable combinations with epilepsy treatment. The advantages of physical stimulation, as opposed to stimulation by needles (acupuncture) are especially valuable for use in epilepsy treatment.

Could it help you?

It has been proved that massage therapy does increase the well-being of individuals and can also increase the longevity. Various styles of massage combinations can be extremely effective in the field of seizure control and prevention, and has proved to be especially important for individuals with little verbal and introspective skills. However, despite studies proving the success of massage therapy, it isn’t always self-evident. With this is mind, it is our stance that a therapeutic massage program for individuals with epilepsy should be developed. Although most styles are interactive, the aim of treatment in most cases is to improve the self-control of epileptic seizures. This usually requires self-restraint within social surroundings too. Massage therapy as a complimentary treatment for epilepsy should be more widely practiced; after all, they are holistically beneficial. Ultimately, massage therapy is relaxing, regardless of whether it’s physically advantageous or not. Epileptics do/would benefit from regularly sessions of massage therapy, even if just for relaxation purposes.

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