Arthritis means inflammation of a joint or joints. Inflamed joints are often red, hot, swollen, and tender. There are more than 100 arthritic conditions that affect the joints or tissues around the joint and specific symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation recognizes massage on a regular basis as a proven treatment for symptoms of arthritis. Though research on massage is scarce, two recent studies sited by the Arthritis Foundation confirm the benefit.
A study conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey examined 68 adults with knee osteoarthritis receiving two Swedish massages per week for eight weeks, compared to a group who received no massage. The massage group reported significant improvements in knee pain, stiffness, function, range of motion and walking, the researchers found.
Symptoms may include:
Potential causes for arthritis may include:
Depending on the type of arthritis, massage is varied in its effectiveness. Osteoarthritis is the condition I most commonly work with. Over time, restriction in joints, muscles and fascia can create suboptimal alignment. that misalignment leads to greater friction in the joint, including possibly one part of the joint taking too much of the load. If we can align or free up the joint to move within normal range of motion, then friction and damage is reduced. Some of the damage may be irreversible and if it's too far along, surgery may be called for. I help prevent surgeries in this way.
Many people greatly underestimate this value of bodywork. Imagine your car parts are misaligned and you just let it slide. Down the road due to parts creating more friction rubbing against each other over and over in ways they shouldn't, you will have expensive repairs and break downs. This is your body and you've only got one. Surgery to resurface joints and joint replacements usually don't get you back to full function because it's a fake joint and you've had surgery which creates scar tissue. There is also recovery time, cost, and risks involved, especially as you age.
The other types of arthritis (systemic disease) also benefits from massage in a different way. Massage can reduce swelling and inflammation temporarily. Joint mobilization and stretching can keep the joint lubricated and from becoming progressively more restricted. Finally, massage helps with pain, but of course the effect is going to be temporary with chronic, system arthritis disease. In these cases, mild to moderate massage is called for, otherwise it may produce a flare.