How Massage Can Help Stroke Patients?

Years of experience as massage therapist made me learned massage ALONE cannot cure or heal stroke patients as claimed by many so called “gifted” massage practitioners in the Philippines. It helped stroke victims recover, yes, but not as an exclusive therapy!


Figure 1 Practicing to walk and balance

How massage help?
  1.  Massage works well as the first step to reactivate muscles before any physical exercise is given.
  2.  Massage passively assists the muscles improve its strength faster than waiting for time to heal it. It loosens stiffened muscles caused by inactivity.
  3.  It lessens pain that limits the movement of muscles such as in the elbow joint that has been bent for a long time while trying to extend its range of motion.
  4.  When muscles can already do work on their own (Though still with rigidity) and no more signs of tightness to touch, massage can be stopped and given only when need arises.
If massage is stopped what is the alternative?

Physical exercises. There are lots of self-help books where you can find the best exercise for you or search the internet. However, it is much better if you ask a physical therapist to assist you especially if you have no idea on what is the best activity for you to do.

Recovery from Stroke Depends on these conditions:
  1. Massage therapy alone cannot restore stroke victim’s health without physical
    therapy, and willingness from the patient to get well.
  2.  Extent of damage in the brain = If the part of the brain that motivates people to go on living is affected, I mean, the desire to get well was damaged there’s no way that person recovers using human skills and knowledge; only the Almighty can do it.
  3.  Age of the patient = the younger the patient the better the chance of recovery.
  4.  People around the patient = family members, friends, and doctors can affect  the patient’s recovery.  For family members and friends, their love, care, and soothing motivating words plays a big role to move the patient do something to help herself or himself. For the doctors, giving the correct medicine and doze of medicine is very important, else, the patient ends up with Alzheimer’s disease or die due to overdose.

Case example: I was called to give massage therapy to a 60 years old man. In the first day, upon evaluation, I observed that he was incoherent when talking jumping from one topic to another that had no connections. He also had problem with balance that as if he was walking up the air which reminded me of the same cases years before when I was working as caregiver in Israel. I had suspicion that his medicines dosages were beyond his capacity or one or more of his medicines is the culprit like sleeping pill. Looking to his eyes, you could see he was sleepy but alert.

After three consecutive therapy, there was improvement with his strength but not with his balance. In the fourth session, I tried let him walk up five steps stairs where it ends on a flat surface. Going up has no problem but on the plane ground, he was still walking like he was dazed and has to walk like he was on the air. So, I suggested to his wife they have to see his doctor earlier than scheduled which was two months away, to report our observation and evaluate his medicines before we continue the therapy.

The next session, the man’s aura was very good. His eyes didn’t look sleepy anymore. When I let him walk, he walked straight without the notion of he was walking on air.

I believe the time and degree of recovery of a patient depends on the damage done in the brain and the will of the patient to recover, and support of the people around him.

Let me share some stories of former stroke patients, I met, on how they recovered based on what they did. Until no one tell their stories or they don’t tell their stories, there’s no way you will notice they were stroke victims. In addition, these people have not received massage therapy.

I met them along the way when I went walking with a stroke client of mine: A single, young age of 31, good looking man, who abused his body with vices, thinking he was strong and invincible until he was attacked by stroke.

“I was also walking up and down these steps”

In the second week of our exercise which was walking up and down the stairs, we met a guy carrying a large gas tank for cooking. I saw him before observing us in what we were doing with my client.

stroke exercise

Figure 11 Stair walking is very good to improve flexibility of the knees and hips


Today however I think he purposely waited for us to come down the stairs. And as we reached the last step, he said, “I was also walking up and down these steps ten years ago.” “Oh, really!” I said expecting him to share something. “Yah, I also had a stroke and I thought I can’t recover. But my nurse sister, helped me by commanding me to walk up and down these steps. Even when I complained I can’t do it anymore to do another step to reach the top, she would force to do one more step. I remember sweating a lot that my shirt and pants were literally wet. I could not complain specially when she kept asking me if I wanted to recover, which I really, really want!”

Well, looking at him, especially with the load he was carrying, you won’t believe he was once a patient in the same stairs we are now exercising.

“Patience was my tool; my sister was my support, and determination to get healed were my motivations to go on climbing these stairs, every day for exactly one year” he said.

Note: He did not receive a complete massage therapy at all. It was just only partial kneading and some stretching during the time he was walking the stairs.

Recovering is Power of the mind

“Never go away from that table until you can pick up those mongo(Mung) beans” said by a physical therapist to the man who had a stroke a week before. He is a lawyer by profession and still young at the age of 45.


Stroke rehabilitation

Figure 111 One stroke victim says, to recover from stroke one needs “Power of the mind”


It took him one week before he was able to pick up one mung bean seed. And that first seed he picked up was like life given to him for another chance to live.

He said, during the time he was commanded to do the work, he was in tears because he cannot move his fingers and arm at all. However, he wanted also to recover, so, he forced himself to work by commanding his brain to command his limb to move.

Now, he said, that recovering from a stroke takes “Power of the mind!” if you don’t force yourself there’s a very little to nothing chance of recovering.

“I must do something, else, I’d rather die”

That mantra was the motivation of one of the people who told me his story on how he recovered from his second stroke.

He was a victim twice, and twice he recovered. But the second one was much worse than the first time. He was confined to a wheel chair with nothing he can do but just to watch the clock ticking from morning to night.

In the first attack, he was just 38 years old and, luckily, he recovered without doing much in about five months.
The second attack he was 48 years old, in 2008.

“I am still very young at that age, and, oh… how much fun will I be missing! And I am embarrassed being taken care of by my children. So, in my mind I resolved to do something or else I rather die instead of suffering physically and emotionally. Probably, I could endure the physical pain, but the agony and sensation of how much you can no longer do because you feel useless or inutile is too much to bear.”

“So, I started to force myself to stand up using the wheelchair as my support. Every hour of the day I have not stopped moving myself until I succeeded to stand up. Wow, what a feeling that I was able to achieved something. Then, every hour of the day I exercised by standing up and down in front of my wheelchair, and slowly forced myself to walk – until, I am able to drag my affected leg. I used everything around the house I could hold unto as my support.”

“Then, next, I walked up to the store – every day – and farther.”

“One day, I heard from the radio that there is a “Run for a Cause” event. I went to register to run 3kms. My purpose was not winning but to just finish the route which I did.  After it, I joined almost every Run for a Cause and increased the course up to 10kms.  During days of waiting between every marathon I joined, I walked without letup unless the climate didn’t allow me to do it.”

“When I could already walk to go places I wanted, I visited my friends in the bar playing dart, my favorite sport even my predicament. My right side of the body was the one affected, thus, I cannot play using my right hand. But it didn’t prevent me from playing; I practiced my left hand. All my friends were amazed when I started winning games using my left hand.”

Looking at the man now, one will never suspect he was once suffered from this fearful sickness. He is now back working at the water district of Baguio City, Philippines strong and kicking. I am glad to meet him because his story is one that can give motivation to many – and warning that it is hard to suffer from stroke. Thus, we all should take care of our health – NOW.

Attitude is a big factor in recovering from stroke

So, based from those stories, we found out that it was their attitude that helped them recover. Thus, people(Traditional Ilot therapists) insisting they have the magic hands to cure people are lying and do not know what they are talking about.

Well, does it mean massage is not needed at all? My answer is “Yes, not needed” and “Yes, it is needed.”

Not needed if the victim has a mindset like the ones in the second and third stories.

But it is NEEDED when in situations like the example given where the victim doesn’t have coherent thinking, or the victim asks for help.

Example of this is a stroke victim I am now helping to recover.

He had the attack in the morning at 10a.m and was only discovered by friends at 10pm at night.  Luckily, he was still alive.  The doctors did what was supposed to be done.  They did a surgery on his head to clean up blood clots on the arteries that go into the brain, saving the man of his life.

The parents of this young man asked me to help their son recover at least up to the point where he doesn’t need help to care for himself.  The reason for this was that this man was depressed and didn’t have any motivation to do continued physical therapy.  He had physical therapist but he just didn’t have any enthusiasm to do exercises given by his therapist alone.  The only time he exercise was at the scheduled appointment with his therapist. This prompted his parents to talk with me. Foremost reason, maybe he will listen to me because their son knew me since he was 12 years old.

In my first day with him, his joints were stiff.  He couldn’t walk flat on his right foot. It twists that it is the outer side drops to the ground and he would lose his balance.

His speech was not clear.  I am glad I had experiences during my time as caregiver in Israel of patients with slurring speeches so, my ears got used to it and able to understand what he was talking about.

At first, it was all Ilot therapy and passive stretching and walking on the flat ground. So that he can walk flat on his foot, I made him use a plantar support to keep his foot from twisting and keep it flat on the ground when he walks.   The item was bought by the other therapist.

After a month, I made him walk up and down stairs – with my assistance at first then slowly left him walked on his own.  I incorporated massage therapy by massaging his legs and feet in between walks.

After one year, when his joints flexibility improved and overall muscle tones were very good (No more hard muscles like over aired ball, or soft muscles like a ball not having enough air) massage was only given once a month or when there was a need for it.

The man now can do most things on his own.  His walking is at least 80% back. The only problem we have is he can’t yet open his fingers when he closed them or grip them.  His parents wanted me to help him until he can use them.  By the way the man loves driving which was his profession when he had the attack.  He wants to go back in front of the driver’s seat thus we are trying very hard to work on it.



Negative mind can kill; A Positive one can heal

I was depressed

We were walking at Pacdal, Baguio city when we met a man in his late 50s I guessed. He was watching us from a distance walking with my buddy who had stroke. Like the others who had stroke, he also pictured himself with the young man walking with me, so he came to us and started to share his experience.

I am now 55 years old and had stroke 5 years ago. I got depressed because despite all the medicines I was taking, and exercises they were giving me, I didn’t notice any significant improvement. In fact, I felt getting worse. It was very hard for me to walk on my feet and to use my right hand because it has no strength at all. So, I stopped all medicines and no more exercises.

One morning, while I was sitting down outside our home, two ladies came to me and told me to buy their product. A portable steam bath. They claim it can cleanse the body of dirt and can improve our health. I don’t know, but maybe the Lord wanted to help me so I bought their product and used it.

After a week of using it everyday, I felt an improvement with my strength and to my whole being. In five months, I recovered and was released/cured from the curse of stroke.

Well, who am I to say otherwise. Here was he talking about his first-hand experience. Again, it proves that when a person doesn’t do anything to help himself and let depression take-over his thought there is no chance of recovery. And, it shows how important people around them can help in a very unexpected way to prod a man do something.

I said to myself, maybe some stroke patients just need some extra push to recover. The only question is “How” and when is the right time to do the pushing and who is the right person to do it?


The point of this article is to show how massage may help in the recovery of stroke patients.  And most important is to warn those victims being deceive by some massage therapist who claim “Only massage is needed to heal them even without seeing a doctor, or taking the medicines prescribed by doctors.” There are many of them in the Philippines, so, beware.

What do you think?

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