Understanding arthritis can be difficult due to its many forms, causes and symptoms. With 1 in 5 Canadians suffering from arthritis—and rates on the rise—it is important to address effective treatment and therapies. In this article, we discuss how some of the symptoms of this chronic condition can be treated with massage therapy for arthritis.
You may also enjoy learning: How Physiotherapy Can Alleviate Arthritis Symptoms.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis, as a term, encompasses many forms of joint disease with various underlying causes and a host of signs and symptoms, including joint pain, stiffness, dysfunction, joint changes, and inflammation. The approach to addressing the root of the problems will differ depending on the exact diagnosis.
Types of Massage Therapy for Arthritis Treatment
Different forms of registered massage therapy can assist a person in their recovery from their diagnosis of arthritis. Effleurage, deep tissue, Swedish, and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization are all forms of massage therapy that may be beneficial for someone with arthritis.
Effectiveness of Massage Therapy for Arthritis
Many people who suffer from arthritis can improve their symptoms by receiving some form of manual therapy and/or massage therapy care. It is important to note that the appropriate technique, pressure, and approach to the individual is extremely important when providing massage therapy to people living with an arthritic condition.
In a systematic review of the literature, Nelson et al. 2017 found that there was promising evidence for the effectiveness in reducing pain, in addition to improving specific functional outcomes when people with arthritic conditions received massage therapy services.
In a study by Field et al., 2015, the authors found that moderate pressure massage around the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups helped to significantly improve pain symptoms and increased range of motion for those with arthritis of the knee joint. Subjective reports of improved sleep were also observed in the treatment group when compared to the controls (no massage therapy).
Field et al., 2014 also investigated the effects of moderate pressure massage for key neck muscle groups in people living with arthritic neck pain. This study found that people who received massage therapy improved in self-reported pain and cervical (neck) range of motion measurements, specifically for flexion and side-flexion of the cervical spine.
The authors also conclude that teaching the intervention group self-massage techniques may have contributed to massage therapy effects, and is a sustainable practice for clients to engage in. The duration of relief from massage therapy did vary, depending on the individual’s response.
Arthritis Massage Therapy for You
It is important to note that, although arthritis may be a painful and sometimes debilitating condition, there are actions you can take to improve your day-to-day abilities and tolerances. Registered massage therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of self-reported pain, range of motion, and specific functional outcomes.
Early intervention by physiotherapists and other health care providers can also significantly mitigate the negative effects of arthritis. Evidence is growing on the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle with this chronic health condition.
Speak to one of our health care professionals to see if massage therapy and/or physiotherapy is right for you.
 Nelson, NL, Churilla, JR. Massage Therapy for Pain and Function in Patients with Arthritis: A systematic reviews of Randomized Controlled Trials. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Volume 96, Issue 9, September 2017, Pages 665-672
Field, T et al. Knee arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion increased following moderate pressure massage therapy. Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice: November 2015, Volume 21, Issue 4, Pages 233-237.
 Field, T et al., Neck arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion increased by massage therapy. Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice: November 2014, Volume 20, Issue 4, Pages 219-223.