Early treatment slows the progress of osteoarthritis.
The optimal dose of massage therapy for relief of pain and stiffness in clients with OA was found in one study to be 60 minutes once a week for up to 24 weeks.
Although there's no known cure for osteoarthritis, receiving treatment as early as possible is important in order to slow progression of the disease and to help reduce painful symptoms.
The goals of treatment through therapeutic massage are to decrease joint pain and stiffness, maintain and improve function and mobility, and increase quality of life.
Osteoarthritic Back and Neck Pain and Massage
massage was shown effective in addressing low-back pain.
Many people with osteoarthritis of the spine, hip and knee will experience low back pain. This can come either from the arthritis itself or from modifying gait or other forms of mobility to avoid pain from the osteoarthritis. There are quite a few studies that show that massage is an effective treatment for back and neck pain.
One such study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011, looked at the effectiveness of massage therapy on 401 people who suffered from chronic low back pain. The study results indicate that massage did reduce pain for those who received massage. It also showed that the benefits of the massage on reducing pain lasted for at least six months. The benefits were not based on the type of massage received—in other words, different modalities had about the same effect.
Osteoarthritic Knees and Massage:
Study participants who received 60-minute massages improved most.
A study focused on the benefits of massage for osteoarthritis of the knee looked at the optimal dose of massage for osteoarthritis of the knee. This trial was published in the journal PLoS One. The purpose was to build upon the randomized controlled trial discussed above by finding the ideal amount of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee. In this study, participants were in one of five groups—30 minutes weekly, 60 minutes weekly, 30 minutes twice a week, 60 minutes twice a week, and a control group that received no massage therapy.
The study continued for 24 weeks, assessing the participants at the beginning of the study, then at eight, 16 and 24 weeks. At the 8-week mark, the participants in both 60-minute massage groups had significant improvements in pain, function and global response when compared to the group that didn’t have massage. Pain intensity was reduced the most in the 60-minute, once a week group—significantly more than it was in both the non-massage group and both of the 30-minute groups. There was no significant difference in outcome between the two 60-minute groups, however. All massage groups had similar reductions in stiffness when compared to the non-massage group, but none of the groups showed significant range of motion changes.
At 24 weeks, the clinical benefits decreased for all groups and were not significantly different between the groups, although all participants had improved when compared to the beginning of the study. Researchers concluded that the treatment potential for massage therapy for OA of the knee is good. They recommend additional, larger trials in the future to define efficacy of massage, how it works with OA, and whether it is a cost-effective treatment option for people who suffer from osteoarthritis.
Hands and Wrists:
15-minute hand massage proved effective for 22 adults with arthritic hands.
Tiffany Field, PhD and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, conducted a study with colleagues. There were twenty-two adult participants, most of whom were women who had been diagnosed with arthritis of the hand or wrist. Participants were given four weekly massages and were taught how to massage their affected joints every day at home.
The study found that a 15-minute massage with moderate pressure led to reduced pain and related anxiety, along with increased grip strength, when compared with both pre- and post-therapy tests. Although these tests were not necessarily specific to osteoarthritis, indications are that people with osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist may experience similar benefits.
Massage is a Non-pharmacological Intervention
As a non-pharmacological treatment, massage has not the side effects found in medications.
Medications can be life-saving, and they definitely have their place in treatment of osteoarthritis. However, non-pharmacologic and alternative treatment, such as massage, can work well alone and in conjunction with medications.
Massage is a naturally effective tool in fighting health problems, and there is evidence it can be effective in helping relieve the pain and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. And because it’s non-pharmacologic, it doesn’t have the potential side effects that many drugs can have.
Reducing stress to improve sleep is an important factor for clients with OA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sleep quality has some important implications for people dealing with a variety of health conditions, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to depression. Helping clients who are dealing with osteoarthritis find ways to both reduce stress and improve sleep patterns can be very beneficial.
In addition to reducing stress, which offers wonderful health benefits, massage can offer a number of advantages – especially when used as part of a holistic healthcare plan.
Massaging affected areas of clients with OA may or may not cause pain.
There is evidence massage can be quite beneficial for people who suffer from osteoarthritis. However, there is a possibility that massaging the areas affected by arthritis may increase the pain—at least during the massage.
I encourage my clients to talk with me as much as necessary to let me know if anything I do causes discomfort or pain.
At your first visit; plan to spend about 10 or 15 minutes sitting with the therapist before the massage. During this time the therapist will learn what you want and need from your massage and it allows you both the opportunity to ask any questions and to get acquainted. The massage will begin directly after filling-in a Health History Form and concluding any discussion.
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