Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the oldest diseases, and massage therapy has been around for thousands of years. When used properly, one of the oldest treatments known to man — massage therapy — can help relieve one of our oldest and most common ailments — osteoarthritis. The value of massage therapy was discovered long ago, practiced in ancient Greece, China, and India. According to a National Health Interview Survey, today about 8 million British citizens receive massage therapy every year.

Osteoarthritis, which affects about 12 percent of British citizens between their early teen years and their mid-70s, occurs when wear and tear breaks down the cartilage cushions between the joints, causing pain and stiffness. Massage therapy seems to ease the pain.

"When done by a trained massage therapist on carefully selected patients, massage therapy is a very valuable addition to traditional osteoarthritis treatments," says Valerie Voner, LMT, a licensed massage therapist and coordinator of the massage therapy program at Chichester Community College in West Sussex.

The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Chronic osteoarthritis responds well to massage, Voner says. Pain is relieved, as the muscles surrounding the joints relax, releasing stiffness and allowing for better range of motion and mobility.

Voner, who has been practicing massage therapy since 1975, points out the many benefits that can be achieved by using massage therapy as an osteoarthritis treatment:

  •     Decreased pain and increased mobility
  •     Increased blood flow to areas of arthritis, bringing oxygen to help healing
  •     Flushing out of toxic inflammatory substances that add to pain and swelling
  •     Increased relaxation, decreased stress, and a sense of well-being

The Science Behind Massage Therapy

"It's hard to find good research on message therapy for osteoarthritis because there have been few controlled studies," says Voner. "It's hard to measure relaxation and well-being objectively." For the most part, she says, the research has been anecdotal. One small study involving 68 patients that looked specifically at massage therapy for knee osteoarthritis concluded that it was both safe and effective.

Massage therapy has been found effective for a variety of pain conditions:

    A recent review of 13 clinical trials concluded that massage therapy may be useful for low-back pain. The Federation of Holistic Therapists recommends using massage therapy along with other therapies to treat low-back pain.
    A study of 64 patients with chronic neck pain found that massage therapy helped to relieve pain and improve movement.
    Although there is no solid evidence to say how or why massage therapy works, theories say it increases blood flow, blocks pain signals that go to the brain, and releases stress-reducing chemicals like serotonin or endorphins.

What Works for Osteoarthritis Treatment

Voner says deep tissue massage is not recommended when osteoarthritis is acute, when there is severe swelling, heat, pain, and redness. It may be used when osteoarthritis is more chronic to ease connective tissue pain around affected joints. Another type of massage to avoid when osteoarthritis is inflamed is lymphatic massage, which involves a pumping movement to move toxins out of the body.

The types of massage that can help patients with osteoarthritis are:

   Trigger point

Voner says these all help to reduce pain and swelling.

Come into our suite and receive these treatments for Osteoarthritis.

Best wishes, Steve