Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more of your joints. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 54.4 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis and is usually found in adults over the age of 65 but can still affect people of all ages including children. Arthritis can cause a range of symptoms and impair a person’s daily tasks like walking comfortable, sitting up straight and using their hands. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis is a slow progressive condition which is caused by wear and tear of a joint, including the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments and the bone. This arthritis is often found in the hands, spine, hips and knees. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for osteoarthritis, and although there are some treatment options that aim to slow the progression of the disease, most treatments are focused on reducing pain and improve function. These treatment options include physical measures such as weight loss, physical exercise, and assistive devices; drug therapy including topical drugs, oral medicines, and joint injections; and surgery to repair or replace the joint.
In contrast to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s immune system is not working correctly and results in pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints in the feet, hands and wrists. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans, and is considered one of the more debilitating forms of arthritis when left untreated. Fortunately, modern advancements in treatment options have made it possible to stop or at least slow the worsening of joint damage, and specific treatments have been developed to target the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Although there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, an alternative way to address the symptoms that come with arthritis is through massage therapy, whether it be from a licensed massage therapist at a spa or self-massage at home.
Research has shown that massage can lower the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, and boost production of serotonin, and lower production of the neurotransmitter substance P, often linked to pain, and improve sleep as a result. A clinical study was done in 2015 involving a 55 year old woman who suffered from RA for 14 years. Over the course of 5 weeks she received one 60 minute swedish massage on her upper limbs and at the end of 5 weeks she was finally able to perform daily tasks. Another study led by Tiffany Field, Ph.D. in 2013, examined the effects of moderate pressure versus light pressure massage therapy on 42 adults with rheumatoid arthritis in the upper limbs. The adults were randomly assigned to a moderate pressure or a light pressure massage therapy group. The affected arm and shoulder were massaged once a week for a four-week period and the participants also had to perform self-massage daily. By the end of the one-month period, results of the study demonstrated the moderate pressure massage group had less pain, increased grip strength, increased wrist flexion, increased elbow flexion and increased shoulder abduction. The study also found that participants in both groups experienced a reduction in depressed mood and anxiety.
In conclusion, Arthritis is a condition that affects almost 55 million people in the U.S. and 350 worldwide. The pain from arthritis can affect a person’s most simple daily tasks like gripping, standing, and even walking. Research shows that consistent massage and even self massage can reduce stress, reduce pain symptoms, and in some cases, improve and increase joint mobility. Massage therapy can be a wonderful compliment for someone being treated for arthritis and has proven itself to be valuable as complementary medicine.
Bethany Foster, 2013, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Massage Therapy
Desert Health, Studies on RA and Massage Therapy
Ali Duarte-Garcia, MD, 2018
Hannah Nichols, 2017, Medical News Today
Susan Berstein, Arthritis.org