How Can Massage Therapy Help Osteoarthritis Pain?

Millions of people around the world, including those living in British Columbia, suffer from osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis there is. The condition occurs when there is a breakdown of the cartilage that acts as a cushion between the joints, resulting in pain and stiffness in the joints.

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but is most common in weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, and spine. Many also suffer from osteoarthritis in their hands. The condition cannot be cured, but there are various pain-reducing remedies. One of those is massage.

Osteoarthritis Massage for Pain Relief

Osteoarthritis massage may relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. Massage acts by relaxing the tense muscles that surround the joints, which relieves the stiffness, which then allows for better range of motion and mobility. When muscle stress is reduced, it promotes a sense of well-being, which is an additional benefit of massage therapy.

Some painful areas that respond well to massage include:

  • Low back pain. One limited study documented osteoarthritis patients who experienced significant improvement in their back pain after 10 massage therapy sessions.
  • Neck pain. A study published a few years ago verified that massage therapy relieves the pain and increases range of motion in those with neck osteoarthritis.
  • Knee pain. Several studies have been published through the years reporting improvement in knee pain for those who underwent osteoarthritis massage.
  • Hand pain. One study showed positive results when patients were taught how to massage their own hands for pain relief. Pain was reduced by as much as 57 percent.

Exactly how massage therapy works to relieve pain is unknown. The Arthritis Foundation theorizes that it may be because massage increases mood-boosting hormone levels, like serotonin, while also reducing stress hormones like cortisol. Massage generally assists people to experience a more restful sleep, which also contributes to pain relief.

Another benefit to osteoarthritis massage is that when pain is relieved, the flexibility of the muscles, joints, and tendons is improved, which in turn increases circulation, which helps reduce the pain-causing inflammation.

Different Approaches to Osteoarthritis Massage

Everyone experiences pain differently, which means one approach may work for one person while another approach does not. It is recommended that before undergoing osteoarthritis massage, a person checks with their treating physician to be sure the therapy is not contraindicated for their particular medical condition.

Some types of massage may not be right for you, whereas another one might be recommended. Some different approaches include:

  • Trigger point. This type of massage focuses on an exact area where pain is occurring and applies pressure or vibration at that spot which seems to trigger the pain.
  • Reiki. This is an Eastern form of massage where the therapist guides energy through your body to stimulate healing. It is a specific technique used by a trained therapist. It may not be for everyone. Your trained massage therapist will know if this is the best type of massage for you.
  • Shiatsu. This is a Japanese type of massage where the therapist uses his or her fingers and palms to apply pressure to specific points of the body. This method is done with the person fully-clothed so it may be a good choice for someone who does not want to disrobe for the therapy session.
  • Swedish. The massage therapist uses long strokes and circular movements to apply pressure and kneading to help relax muscles. This increases the blood and oxygen flow to the affected area of the body and, in turn, reduces soreness.
  • Reflexology. The massage therapist applies pressure to specific spots on the hands and feet which brings relief to other parts of the body. This works well for those who are sensitive to being touched on other parts of their body.

These are just a few of the techniques that may be used. Your own trained and certified massage therapist will discuss with you the best type of massage for your specific osteoarthritis pain.

Contact us at Fermata Integrated Health in Kelowna, B.C. to make an appointment for an osteoarthritis massage with one of our trained and certified massage therapists. We begin by discussing with you your medical history, your current symptoms, and what you want to achieve. Our trained medical professional will then assist in developing a treatment plan unique to your personal situation.

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