Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. It is not really a single disease but an informal way of referring to joint pain. There are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis or related conditions. More than 50 million adults have some form of arthritis and it is most common among women as they age.
Common joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms can vary from very mild to severe in the same person depending on the day. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain and interfere with many daily activities. Some types of arthritis can also affect the heart, eyes, skin and internal organs like the lungs and kidneys.
How massage therapy helps
According to the Arthritis Foundation, regular massage of muscles and joints can lead to a significant reduction in pain. Research from Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, concludes that regular use of massage therapy led to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, and overall function of the joints in her test subjects. Field has conducted another study where twenty-two adults, mostly women, diagnosed with hand or wrist arthritis, were given four weekly massages from a licensed massage therapist and were also taught to massage their sore joints daily at home. Just a 15-minute massage per day led to reduced pain and anxiety.
Massage therapy works because it can lower the body’s production of the stress hormone, cortisol, and boost production of serotonin which improves mood. Additionally, massage can lower production of the neurotransmitter substance P which is often linked to pain.
Be sure to have a conversation with your massage therapist before the treatment about your condition and what parts of your body are most affected. Remember that massage is not medicine but a way to complement what your doctor has already prescribed as your arthritis treatment.