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International Therapist Magazine  Interviews MSRRF Therapists

International Therapist Magazine recently interviewed MSRRF therapists Angela and Deborah. Here is what they had to say.

MSRRF Therapists MSRRF Therapists Deborah Richardson and Angela Angus are fully qualified Complementary Therapists and Fitness Instructors based at Benmar House. Angela says that “Deborah and I are employed as therapists and Fitness Instructors at the Morpeth centre.
A further 24 self-employed Therapists cover the charity’s outreach services and there are six bank therapy staff. ““All the therapies we offer are to help Service Users physically, mentally and emotionally. Reflexology is particularly popular as it can be beneficial for bowel and bladder problems, both of which are common and distressing for people with MS. Reflexology can also be easily adapted for wheelchair users. It is not uncommon for the Therapist to sit on the floor and treat a person sitting down if they are unable to transfer onto a couch or bed.

Another popular therapy is Sports Massage, as muscular problems are also common in people with MS. Deep tissue work, connective tissue release and various other sports massage techniques can all be beneficial and are used mainly on the arms, legs and back, which are the most commonly affected areas.

MSRRF Tharapists
Angela working with a service user.

Two other major symptoms of MS can be spasticity or circulation disorders of the extremities. It is very rewarding to see immediate improvements when performing massage.

We tailor each therapy to meet the individual needs of our Service Users, as symptoms vary considerably. For example, therapists may do a Deep Tissue Back Massage for muscular problems, incorporating Indian Head Massage for relaxation and Lymphatic Drainage for physical signs of oedema, all in a one-hour treatment.”

Exercise and MS

Research suggests that exercise can help people with MS stay active and manage a range of symptoms, from balance difficulties, to bowel problems and depression. Exercise can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and weight gain.

“In addition to exercise classes we offer people the chance to use exercise equipment, including toning machines, wobble boards and exercise balls. We also have a Vibrogym that vibrates at a high level working most of the body’s muscles at the same time. The Vibrogym can help to strengthen muscle mass, improve flexibility and well-being and relax leg spasms. A typical workout is only ten minutes long.”

“A high percentage of our Service Users with MS get relief from their symptoms when they exercise. Many benefit from stress relief, fewer or shorter relapses, or simply enjoy the feeling of being more in control of their symptoms.”

“Meeting new Service Users who are finding their MS hard to cope with is the hardest and most demanding part of our work, Deborah said, “but it is very rewarding when you see  that accessing our services makes a real difference.” Deborah goes on to say, “I greatly enjoy working one-to-one, particularly when giving Complementary Therapies. I enjoy the connection with someone who really benefits from Massage or Reflexology.”

Deborah also finds it incredibly rewarding when people leave the centre looking more relaxed and happier than when they arrived and although the job can be physically and emotionally challenging. She said, “ We both love our work and would not want to do anything else. We, and other MSRRF Therapists, have found that perhaps the biggest benefit of the Charity is the development of a  positive and supportive relationship between the Service User and us, the Therapists. Our Service Users feel we are here for them, even if it is just for a reassuring chat.”


After a long period of tests one of our Service Users was diagnosed with MS. Her initial symptoms were severe vertigo, falling over, pain in the right side of her head and sickness.
She had a long absence from work, but eventually returned with the aid of a wheelchair. She had resigned herself to always being a wheelchair user.

On a visit to her physiotherapist, she was told about the benefits of exercise for people with MS. She continued to attend weekly sessions, which gave her the confidence to gradually use her wheelchair less. It was around that time that she heard about MSRRF and started attending exercise and therapy sessions at Benmar House.

We began by tailoring a therapy and exercise programme to her needs. She attended for three   consecutive weekly massages after which she was given a three-week exercise programme of    Vibrogym training, a twenty minute strengthening and stretching session, followed by thirty minutes on the Toning Tables. She was encouraged to try different therapies and started to see a marked improvement in her mood and circulation after Massage, and found Reflexology and Indian Head Massage very relaxing and beneficial in their own right. However, Full Body Massage and Sports Massage had the biggest impact on her physically.

We asked what she found most beneficial and she told us: ‘When I found out I had MS I felt isolated, alone and unsure of the future. I have exercised all my life but going to the gym could sometimes be a problem, as staff did not seem to know much about MS. Going to MSRRF, I feel supported – it is a safe environment and the staff understand my MS. I have developed a relationship with them, which makes me feel able to attend, regardless of my good or bad days. I know I can be myself and talk openly about my MS. I can reach my potential because I am not afraid to try new things. I have complete trust in the Therapists and Fitness Instructors. The        excellence of the staff and the equipment, and their commitment to every single Service User really shows. The Charity has progressed and developed to such a high standard, there is nowhere else quite like it.’ This Service User now walks unaided and catches two buses to get to the centre, which shows her commitment to the management of her MS. She has a positive outlook and is a great  example of how Complementary Therapies, exercise and support have helped her to manage her MS symptoms. This lady is 72 and, five years on, still attends the centre every week.


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