Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis Pain
Osteoparthritis of the Hands
Osteoarthritis, a result of aging, is due to wear and tear on a particular joint, but new studies have proven that massage therapy can successfully relieve pain, improve the function of the joint, and reduce stiffness.
There are 27 million Americans with osteoarthritis. Normal cartilage cushions the bones at the joints allowing the bones to glide over each other without discomfort. When the cartilage breaks down, the bones rub together. This causes pain, stiffness, and swelling. Sometimes bony spurs will also form, which intensifies the pain as the surrounding ligaments and muscles become weaker.
Any treatment for osteoarthritis is aimed at preserving the join function, reducing the pain, limiting deformity and disability. Alternative treatments have increased in popularity over the past few years; therefore, patients are using alternative treatments in addition to their conventional medicine.
Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis
One of the most popular and successful treatments for osteoarthritis is massage therapy. There are actually 80 different types of massage therapy that will help relax and relieve muscular pain.
A typical therapy session lasts 30-60 minutes, and patients with chronic problems typically complete a series of sessions. Massage therapists primarily use their hands, and fingers for the massage, but some also use their forearms, elbows or even their feet to manipulate the muscles and soft tissues. The relaxation of these muscles will also increase the blood flow and oxygen to the massaged areas, which increases warmth to relieve pain.
National Institute of Health Study
A study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) used 60-minute massage sessions for 125 participants using Swedish massage for osteoarthritic knee pain. The study lasted for eight weeks.
The patients who received the 60-minute treatments had a significant improvement in pain intensity over the group that received the 30-minute massage, although the range of motion was unchanged. This study lasted for 24 weeks.
Swedish massage is a therapy designed to relax the muscles as pressure is applied to the deep muscles and bones. This is achieved by using long, gliding strokes, rubbing the muscles in the direction of the blood flow that is returning to the heart. This releases toxins from the muscles and increases oxygen in the blood.
Arthritis in Fingers
Yale Study on Swedish Massage
Another study completed by the Yale Prevention Research Center in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey completed a 16-week study to assess the benefits of Swedish massage on patients with osteoarthritis.
There were two groups. One followed their typical medical treatment, and the other participated in the massages. The treatment consisted of two one-hour Swedish massages per week for four weeks, followed by once a week for four weeks.
The patients that received these massages had significant improvement in pain, stiffness and functional ability as compared to the group that only had standard medical care. Massage has no side effects and is well tolerated, which makes it an attractive treatment.
Cross massage is another type of massage used by therapists for patients with osteoarthritis. In addition to increasing blood flow, this type of message also breaks down cross bridges. As the body attempts to repair itself scar tissue if formed in a rather haphazard manner.
Muscle fibers run parallel to each other so they can slide easily with expansion or contraction in movement. When scar tissue forms, it creates cross-bridges between the parallel muscle fibers. This tethers the muscles together, so they cannot slide easily, which shortens the muscle.
- Flexibility is reduced
- The muscles become weaker
- Adjacent muscles work harder to take over so they become inflamed
- The risk of re-injury increases
The result eventually is an increase in pain, less flexibility and decreased strength.
It is possible to use self-massage on the painful joints by massaging reasonably hard at right angles to the sore muscle fibers. The muscles are pulled apart, which stops the cross bridges from forming so that any scar tissue will form in the direction of the muscle fibers.
Massage For Osteoarthritis, Medical Conditions
The results are in from multiple studies that massage therapy is a useful modality for osteoarthritis. Any treatment that lessens pain and reduces stiffness that does not involve taking a medication that possibly has side effects.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.