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Touch™ and Multiple Sclerosis
By Kathy Wilmering
(This article originally appeared in the Cooperative Connection,
the bi-monthly publication of Nurse Healers-Professional Associates
International, Inc. It is printed with permission.)
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a multifaceted condition with different
manifestations in each person: As they say in the perfume commercial,
so 'Mary on Mary, so Johnny on Johnny'. What I say here, then
will have to be adapted to the specific individual.
People with MS are extremely sensitive to energy changes. The
first time I was in a workshop, four eager new practitioners
went to work on my spastic legs. By the end of my workshop I
had to be helped to the car and I had to stay in bed the next
day until my legs became less flaccid. The good news was that
I had a stunning experience of the reality of energy flow in
This sensitivity may manifest in an energy field that extends
much further from the body than usual. Often when people begin
to work on some areas of me they have to stand a foot or more
away. If they don't, I become nauseated, twitchy, and more ataxic
than usual. Sometimes hands-on work makes this less of an issue
but only if the practitioner is deeply centered and grounded
and slowly and smoothly modulates the energy.
The MS healee must know that her feedback will be accepted and
immediately heeded. I have had to work hard on my discomfort
at having to ask so often for people to modulate what they are
doing. I feel like the fairytale princess in the story who could
feel the tiny pea beneath twenty mattresses.
Having listed these
cautions, I reassure the practitioners that Therapeutic Touch™ is helpful to those with MS, especially cumulatively. My first
time at TT camp at Indralaya was as a patient in 1995. Vertigo,
ataxia, an especially spastic left leg that spasmed, nystagmus
and intense nerve pain in both my shoulders, arms, and hands
were some of the symptoms that plagued me, as well as left sided
weakness. I had carpal tunnel syndrome
and chronic head and neck pain from using my canes.
I was usually in Dora's group. She frequently would start at my neck and slowly move down to the lumbar area as she rubbed circularly on my back. She would have people work hands on moving energy down my legs and especially would have them work smoothly and vigorously on my feet.
I could not sit unaided on the benches, as my lack of position sense meant that if I relaxed and stopped using my eyes to tell where I was in space, I would fall backwards.
Either she or someone else would
have me lean against their body or hands as they worked.
Directly after the treatment I would not feel any different, but when
I'd lie down, I'd feel like a rag doll and would drift off into a
deep sleep. When I woke up, my balance would be better for a while
and I'd feel more energy and less pain.
From most practitioners I get the most relief from slow, smooth, and
sometimes long movements Choppy motions usually make me seasick and
TT applied consistently was helpful in decreasing pain, spasticity,
and nystagmus, increasing energy, and decreasing anxiety. It was not
helpful for other mood symptoms or for cognitive ones (short term
memory problems and impaired executive functioning). I experienced
more benefit when I combined it with other modalities.
Experiencing others doing Therapeutic Touch™ with me gave me the sense
of how to move my own energy. Although when I'm substantially symptomatic
my work with myself is not hugely effective. At other times I can
give myself some relief. An example is when I trekked in Nepal and
had to sleep on the hard ground after a day of using my canes. Stretching
out to sleep induced painful leg spasms. Some hands-on work pulling
energy out of my feet gave
enough relief that with a minute dose of Baclofen I could sleep. Sometimes
I could do it; sometimes someone else had to. This situation required
firm hands on my lower legs pulling down with pressure and then across
the tops and bottoms of my feet and out.
Kathey Wilmering, MSW, APRN, BC, has practised Therapeutic Touch™ since 1995. She has had MS for 26 years. She can be reached at