Massage To Relieve Arthritis
Posted on: 04 November 2016 by Kanjana Sawangha
We take a look at how a regular massage can help relieve all-too-common symptoms of arthritis
Massage can be extremely good for arthritis, as research studies found. Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that may appear in your 40s and 50s causing pain in hands and feet, however some forms of arthritis affect children and young adults too.
Waking up without feeling aches in your joints, walking without discomfort and moving your body effortlessly should be the norm at any age. However, if you don’t look after your health and if you suffer from arthritis, over time your condition may worsen. Massage is an option that is worth exploring for better overall health.
Studies on Massage for Arthritis
The Arthritis Foundation (see here) encourages arthritis sufferers to try massage therapy as a way to help alleviate pain and discomfort. Quoting from the University of Miami Medical School, the Foundation recommends having regular massage sessions to help manage pain, retain flexibility and ease tension.
A study from the Yale Prevention Research Center published in 2006 (see here) found that a group of patients suffering from osteoarthritis in their knees achieved better flexibility, better range of movement and less pain after a course of massage treatments. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of massage were long-lasting as the patients continued to enjoy having less pain and having more flexibility for eight weeks after treatment.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects 8 million people in the UK and it is normally a genetic condition that is common in people over 50. It affects the cartilage buffering the bones in the joints. Once the cartilage becomes thinner, wears out completely or becomes rigid, tendons have to work harder to compensate for the loss of flexibility and they become inflamed. When bones rub against each other they cause pain and sometimes joints become deformed (for example, the phalanges in each finger become curved and rigid).
Arthritis is a complex condition that affects the muscular-skeletal system, the nervous system and the circulatory system. Hands, feet, ankles, neck, hips and knees tend to be most arthritic. While this may cause pain doing normal day-to-day activities like walking or typing, there are ways to make the condition more bearable.
How Massage Can Be Beneficial
Massage can help increase the flexibility of joints and muscles. Of course, in severe arthritis cases you can’t expect to regain the same full range of movement you had before, but there are advantages in keeping the joints as healthy as possible.
Massage is generally an excellent pain relief method, as long as you see a qualified therapist who will take an in-depth medical questionnaire and ensures nothing will interfere with any medication you might be taking.
Massage works on skin, muscles, fascia and nerve endings to promote a sense of relaxation and help produce the “happy hormone” serotonin. Gentle manipulation of soft tissues can also make a difference by reducing joint stiffness and therefore making everyday activities easier and less painful.
Blood and lymph circulation may be restricted in areas affected by arthritis: massage can boost the circulation, bringing a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to the area being treated. Inflamed joints will feel warm to the touch and some redness may occur. Gentle lymphatic massage can alleviate the discomfort and keep the lymphatic system in good condition by lowering the inflammatory response. Strong pressure should never be used on arthritic joints as this would aggravate the inflammation.
Using a warm compress during a massage treatment and at home can soothe aching joints and muscles: for example, in Thai massage a therapist will apply heated herb compresses to the body to provide soothing warmth that is effective in relieving pain.
At times, arthritis pain may keep you awake at night; however if you receive massage therapy regularly you may find it easier to fall asleep and discover that the quality of your sleep improves.
To gain the maximum benefits from massage therapy it is advised to start a course of treatment while still in the early stages of arthritis to slow down the progression of the condition. However, if joints are permanently blocked and calcified, some massage is still beneficial, particularly to help manage pain.
The pressure should be medium to light and the emphasis should be on gentle stretching to help mobility. In Thai massage, for example, the therapist gently coaxes the muscles into lengthening and releasing. Thai massage uses gentle stretches, pressure points and gentle manipulation to induce a sense of balance and relaxation.
Regular exercise can improve flexibility and yoga is recommended. In Thai yoga massage, for example, massage is combined with simple yoga movements and stretches. It has also a meditative quality, which helps to improve your mood and the quality of your sleep. Keeping active and doing something you enjoy help you stay healthy and also makes you happier while providing a welcome from focusing on aches and pains.
Pain is not inevitable and it can be managed. Sometimes it can take over your life and may make you feel miserable because of the discomfort in your body, and this can affect your relationships and your work, but you can do something about it.
If you have just been diagnosed with arthritis you can get immediate pain relief and a better chance of delaying the progression of the condition by booking a course of massage treatments. Choosing massage therapy could be the best decision you make to keep your body healthy for years to come.