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Arthritis and Massage

Did you know that there are multiple different forms of arthritis, with a wide variety of symptoms and presentations?  The most common of these is Osteoarthritis.  “Osteo” means bone; “Arthro” relates to joints; and “-itis” refers to inflammation.  By definition Osteoarthritis is the degradation of a joint, breakdown of the cartilage, and the inflammation that accompanies it. Another name for Osteoarthritis is Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).Woman Receiving Massage

According to the Arthritis Foundation, symptoms include joint stiffness (especially hips, knees and the low back), pain after resting, and pain that increases at the end of the day.   When a joint hurts, we tend to use it less, or alter the ways we move it.  With less movement, surrounding muscles weaken and add to the dysfunction.

Osteoarthritis is the culprit behind most joint replacements and many peoples’ back pain.  It is considered one of the most prevalent chronic health problems of our day.

A friend told me that: “His chronic hip pain is due to bone spurs and age-related degeneration.  They’ve cleaned it out, but there is only so much they could do, and after surgery he still has pain when he walks.  They told him he should live with it for as long as he can and then have hip replacement surgery. What a bummer!”

Back painThe treatments for Osteoarthritis include weight management, a healthy diet, prudent exercise, stress reduction, pain medicine, and physical therapy.  But when those don’t work, and pain is severe, many people turn to joint replacement surgery.  A joint replacement removes rough, damaged bone and cartilage and installs an implant with a new, smooth surface.  The downside is that they usually have a limited lifespan. That is, a replaced knee or hip is expected to last about 10-15 years, depending on the weight and physical activity of the recipient. Younger patients are commonly advised to postpone joint replacement surgery for as long as possible.  This is because in 10 or 15 years it will have to be done again, and the next surgery has less likelihood of a good outcome.

Finding Relief in Massage
The Arthritis Foundation reports that more and more doctors are recommending massage to their arthritis patients for the relief of pain and stiffness.

While massage therapy will not “heal” or cure arthritis, it can make the painful joints feel better.  And for someone suffering with arthritis, “better” is a welcomed word.  With massage, there are no side effects involved.  For these reasons, massage is fast becoming one of the most popular complementary and alternative therapies for neck and back pain associated with arthritis.  For someone who is a candidate for surgery but has been counseled to wait, skilled massage may be able to relieve pain symptoms and improve quality of life in the interim.

Poor postural patterns create functional stress that can increase the pressure on a compromised joint.  Osteoarthritis often presents in adjacent joints, such as hips and knees.  Massage has long been a trusted method to address poor posture and increase range of motion.  Many people have found great relief and an overall feeling of improved mobility with a regular massage regimen.

DBLD039752espite the strong anecdotal evidence to support the benefits of massage, there are those who doubt the direct impact massage can have for an arthritis sufferer.  However, no one can argue that massage is a great tension tamer!  Stress management is on the top of the list of lifestyle modifications recommended for arthritis patients, and massage has a well-established role in stress reduction programs.  “If you suffer from arthritis, you need to be especially aware of stress, since it can make it harder to manage your symptoms,”9 write the editors at www.Allaboutarthritis.com.

You may be a little worried that having a massage may cause more pain or increase inflammation. That’s why it’s so important that you choose a massage therapist who really understands arthritis clients and their needs before scheduling your appointment.  An educated massage therapist should work slowly, gently, and with great care.  They should constantly seek your feedback to make sure that the massage is within your comfort zone the entire time.  Having a massage after surgery can ease pain.  Interview your therapist to make sure they are experienced in post-surgical care.

The Medical Fitness Network can help you find a reliable, educated massage practitioner in your area to help you ease your pain, improve range of motion and reduce muscle tension.  Let massage touch your life and add to your health and wellbeing!

MFN Advisory Board and Industry Expert