By Rick Halle-Podell, Licensed Massage Therapist, Founder of Massage Therapy of Oak Park
Massage therapy is a powerful weapon in the fight to relieve the discomfort and pain related to osteoarthritis (OA). Muscles and tendons support and move all the body’s joints. Thus, inflamed, painful joints affect muscles and tendons. Because massage therapy is a passive form of exercise, it can help OA sufferers by increasing circulation, range of motion and tissue suppleness, all while removing lymph from between the cells.
Pain Relief and Other Benefits of Massage Therapy
Licensed massage therapists are trained to work specifically on a muscle of a joint. They can engage trigger points, using moist heat or ice, as well as stretching and resistance exercises. In her book Pain Erasure, author and recipient of The President’s Council Lifetime Achievement Award Bonnie Prudden writes that “95% of all OA pain can be relieved.”
Research at The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage can also increase immune response by increasing killer T cell production, assisting the body to fight off viruses and bacteria. Other studies indicate that emotional stress can decrease the immune response, making OA sufferers more prone to flare-ups.
Massage helps the body return to a relaxed or balanced state scientists call homeostasis. Relaxation is achieved by affecting an aspect of the central nervous system known as the parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest and repose nervous system. Massage is done in a relaxing and supportive atmosphere to insure that best possible results.
Massage Techniques and Treatments Specific to Osteoarthritis
To accomplish the goal of easing painful muscles and joints, therapists may use a wide variety or modalities. Swedish massage, neuromuscular massage, heat, ice and stretching or gentle body mobilization techniques are all effective techniques. Once the pain has diminished and the maximum range of motion is established, your massage therapist will work with you to maintain and minimize any further pain patterns that are so common in arthritis flare-ups.