Massage is a great pain reducer. It even works on pain caused by osteoarthritis of the knee. That’s the conclusion of plenty of research, including the often-cited 2006 study conducted by New Jersey’s University of Medicine and Dentistry.
Sixty-eight people with osteoarthritis of the knee participated in the study. Half were given one-hour “sessions of standard Swedish massage” twice a week for the first four weeks, and once weekly for the next four weeks. The other half received no massage treatments.
The study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, suggested that massage therapy has beneficial effects that can last for 2 months or longer after the 8-week round of treatment ends, according to lead author Adam I. Perlman, MD, MPH.
“Massage therapy seems to be well tolerated by people with painful OA of the knee,” Dr. Perlman concluded. “Massage also seems to decrease pain and improve function in participants who were allowed to maintain their usual treatment.”
In fact, most participants reported not only a decrease in pain, but less knee stiffness and improved range of motion.
Dr. Perlman co-authored a similar study in 2015. It’s published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In this study, 25 veterans with osteoarthritis of the knee were treated with 1-hour sessions of full-body Swedish massage once a week for 8 weeks. And the results were similar: “significant improvement” in reported pain and stiffness.
How common is it?
Osteoarthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it usually strikes the knees. While not everyone with the condition is a senior citizen, nearly 4.3 million adults over age 60 have osteoarthritis of the knee, the CDC reports.
Get a doctor’s OK
Anyone seeking massage treatments to ease osteoarthritis symptoms should consult their doctor first, the Arthritis Foundation advises.
So if you’re the massage therapist, you’ll want your client to get their doctor’s assurance that massage is safe for their particular situation. Then you’ll both feel more comfortable while you’re treating them.
“Some techniques may involve strong pressure to sensitive tissues and joints, or moving limbs into various positions that may be difficult for someone with damaged joints,” the AF states.
The foundation also advises caution for a person considering massage who has:
- Damaged or eroded joints from arthritis
- Arthritic flare-up, fever or a skin rash
- Severe osteoporosis (brittle bones)
- High blood pressure
- Varicose veins
For more information, visit the AF’s article on the “Benefits of Massage.”
For an interesting introduction to The History of Massage, click here.