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Benefits of Massage for Arthritis

Massage for Arthritis

Living with Arthritis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 27 million American adults have received an osteoarthritis diagnosis. Since osteoarthritis is a growing problem, it is important that massage therapists know the benefits of touch for their clients who suffer with pain from this disease.

Osteoarthritis is a painful joint disorder involving inflammation and the loss of healthy cartilage in joints. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease.

The National Center for Complementary Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) reports that massage is one of the most popular complementary therapies used by Americans, with close to 9% of adults using it. Massage and functional movement can halt the painful and debilitating symptoms of arthritis.

Pain from Arthritis

People who suffer from osteoarthritis report feeling deep pain and stiffness involving one or more joints. Pain is worsened when a joint is not properly warmed up or has been overused.

Weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips are the most affected and the pain is often debilitating causing movement to be limited. Contributing factors include:

  • Aging
  • Weight
  • Surgery
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Stress

These may all disturb the delicate balance that maintains healthy cartilage, leaving a joint more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are numerous options to help deal with the symptoms. These range from standard treatments like pain medication and surgery, to new advanced treatments like platelet rich plasma and hyaluronic acid injections. Another option for patients with this condition is massage therapy.

Research on Massage

The exact biochemical mechanism behind massage’s relief for osteoarthritis is still under investigation; however, research has indicated massage can lower the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, and increase serotonin production. Numerous research studies have indicated massage therapy is a safe and effective natural approach to reducing osteoarthritis symptoms.

A study involving 68 people that looked specifically at massage therapy for knee osteoarthritis concluded that it was both safe and effective. The researchers’ follow-up study, published in 2012 in PLoS One, found that the optimal treatment for relief is 60 minutes of Swedish massage once a week. Compared with standard care, the addition of massage reduced pain and improved function.

An article titled “Benefits of Massage,” published on the website of the Arthritis Foundation, notes that massage therapy can help clients sleep better, “which in turn gives the body greater opportunity to heal.”

In 2012, JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association, published “Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee,” which indicated massage therapy helped recipients feel less pain and stiffness; increased range of motion; and improved the time it took to walk 50 feet.

Benefits of Massage

Massage therapy is a valuable addition to traditional osteoarthritis treatments. It also supports a sense of well-being which leads to more positive attitudes about the body. Not only does a massage feel good, but it also stimulates blood flow, loosens muscles and can be very relaxing.

Benefits from massage therapy for osteoarthritis sufferers:

  1. Joint Flexibility
  2. Pain Management
  3. Decreased Swelling
  4. Relaxation
  5. Psychological benefits

These benefits will greatly aid the patient and can slow the progression of this condition.

What to Look For

Massage is a non-invasive treatment option for knee osteoarthritis or other ailments and is to be used as a complimentary treatment to your prescribed arthritis treatment. You want to look for a therapist who is experiences in massage for osteoarthritis and you want them to be state certified. A qualified therapist could have one or more of several recognized certifications:

  • Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT)
  • Certified Massage Therapist (CMT)
  • Licensed Massage Practitioner

You should enjoy experiencing a massage and it should not increase your pain or anxiety. Communication with your massage therapist beforehand can ensure that massage is right for you and help you achieve optimal results.