June is National Arthritis Month. For the many people who suffer from this painful disease, this month is a way to raise awareness, be in community with other arthritis sufferers, and to learn about new methods for dealing with the pain of arthritis, such as medications, herbal remedies, yoga and massage therapy.
Swedish massage can be a powerful addition to an arthritis sufferer’s treatment plan. According to researchers at the Yale Prevention Research Center, massage therapy is a safe and effective way to reduce pain and improve function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that affects 21 million Americans and causes more physical limitation than lung disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Massage is free of any known side effects and according to our results, clearly shows therapeutic promise,” said senior investigator of the study David L. Katz, M.D., associate adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at Yale School of Medicine and director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. “So-called ‘alternative’ treatments like massage are most important when conventional treatments are far from ideal. Currently available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often not well-tolerated by older adults with osteoarthritis. Cox-II inhibitors like Vioxx were developed as substitutes for traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, but pose highly-publicized toxicity problems of their own.”
“Our results suggest that massage therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment for osteoarthritis,” said Perlman. “Ultimately, massage may be shown to lessen a patient’s reliance on medications and decrease health care costs.”
Since deep tissue massage is contraindicated for certain types of arthritis during flare ups, Swedish massage is the modality most often used to help ease arthritis pain. Swedish massage utilizes five basic strokes: long, slow strokes (effleurage), kneading (petrissage), a tapping stroke called tapotement, friction, and vibration or rocking. Swedish massage can be done with a variety of pressures, but generally addresses the joints and surface layers of muscles, as opposed to deep tissue massage, which reaches the deeper tissues. For arthritis sufferers, Swedish massage is beneficial not only for pain, but also for the anxiety and depression that can result from living with chronic pain.
During this National Arthritis Month, treat yourself or someone you know who lives with arthritis to something healthy and rewarding: a yoga class, a gentle walk, or a relaxing, pain-reducing massage. When we treat our bodies lovingly, like a friend, chronic pain can become easier to live with.