Osteoarthritis plagues the lives of millions of people every year in the U.S. Research is revealing that massage therapy may be a viable therapy option to address pain and improve joint function. The best results come after weeks of regular therapy.
As one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease affecting the joints. Cartilage becomes worn down at the end of joints and makes movement painful and limits mobility. Swelling and stiffness of the affected joints is also a common symptom. While any joint can be affected, it is most commonly observed in the joints of the hands or in load-bearing joints such as the knees. Many factors increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis such as weight, age, genetics, and overusing a joint.
Osteoarthritis can become severe without treatment and leave patients in extreme pain and loss of joint function altogether. The desire to find alternatives to pharmaceutical treatments and surgery has led to many people exploring other options. In more recent years, a study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that looked at the effect of massage therapy on osteoarthritis symptom management. The study looked at individuals experiencing osteoarthritis of the knee. Most participants were followed for a period of 52 weeks. After eight weeks, significant improvements had been observed. Compared to their regular maintenance and light touch, massage therapy provided significant relief. This finding has led to the conclusion that osteoarthritis patients would benefit from adding massage therapy with their other treatment routines.
The study started by implementing a weekly 1-hour full-body Swedish massage. This continued for a period of eight weeks at which point the frequency was reduced to one massage every two weeks. The participants were followed for a year-long period. Additional improvements were not observed after the eight-week mark. However, during the bi-weekly massages, these improvements were maintained. Massage therapy provided the benefits of decreased inflammation and pain. Participants also reported improved joint mobility. Massage therapy may be worth trying for individuals struggling with osteoarthritis. It is important, however, to first be cleared by a doctor as massage therapy may not be safe for everyone.
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