Massage Helps Arthritis

arthritis massage

Arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joints, and gets worse with age. The affected joints will also feel hot and swollen. Regular massage can help this painful condition.

“Regular massage of muscles and joints, whether by a licensed therapist at a spa or by self-massage at home, can lead to a significant reduction in pain for people with arthritis,” according to Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Field’s research indicated that regular massage led to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, hand grip strength and overall function of the joints. Arthritis patients can best manage their condition by learning more about it and putting together the right healthcare team.

The first step is to figure out what type of arthritis you have.


There are different types of arthritis. Please consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam to see how well you can move. Laboratory tests may be ordered to help pinpoint the type of arthritis you have. Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be ordered also.

Sometimes doctors will perform an arthroscopy. A small, flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the joint area to look for damaged tissues. Sometimes scar tissue is cut out to free up space in the joint.

Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. The cartilage between the bones wears down due to repetitive use or injury. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and provides a smooth surface for bones to glide on. As the cartilages deteriorates, bones start to grind on each other and this causes pain and discomfort. Obesity and poor posture are contributing factors to osteoarthritis.



Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an immune system disorder where the body attacks the synovial membrane (joint lining). As a response to this damage, the joints swell up with inflammation. The body is at war with itself and the joints are the battleground. Eventually this process can destroy the cartilage and bone in the joint.

A feeling of tiredness is another symptom of RA. Constant pain drains energy from the body. Sometimes people with RA develop small lumps under the skin called rheumatoid nodules. These lumps show up on areas of the body that are feeling external pressure, such as the elbows or hands.



Gout is a form of arthritis that primarily affects joints in the foot, particularly the big toe. Gout is a hereditary metabolic disease, waste products called uric acid crystals build up in the joints and cause pain and swelling.


Ankylosing Spondylitis is arthritis that affects the spine and ribs. This is a chronic condition that can eventually fixate and fuse the joints together.

anklylosing_spondylitis progression

Arthritis Risk Factors

  • Family History – arthritis runs in families and your genetics may make you more sensitive to environmental factors
  • Age – risk increases with age
  • Gender – women are more likely to develop RA, men are more likely to develop gout
  • Previous Joint Injury – damaged joints are more likely to develop arthritis
  • Obesity – extra weight puts more stress on joints, particularly the knees, hips and spine


Arthritis symptoms indicate inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s response to damage or infection. The four signs of inflammation are heat, redness, swelling and pain.

Inflammation and other arthritis symptoms can be managed with medications, diet, massage, hydrotherapy and exercise.


Your doctor may recommend analgesics (Tylenol, narcotics), NSAIDS (ibuprofen), counterirritants (menthol, capsaican), DMARDS & Biologics (slows immune response), or corticosteroids (prednisone, cortisone).


Eat a whole foods based diet with fresh vegetables and lean proteins. Reduce your sugar intake.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines.

Saturated and trans fats will also inflame tissue. Refined carbohydrates (white bread, white potatoes) should also be avoided because they stimulate inflammation. Anything with artificial ingredients can trigger the inflammatory process.

Losing excess weight will reduce stress on joints and reduce pain levels.


In a 2006 study conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, researchers examined 68 adults with knee osteoarthritis. Participants received two Swedish massages per week for eight weeks, compared to a group who received no massage. The massage group reported significant improvements in knee pain, stiffness, function, range of motion and walking, the researchers found.

Massage can be very beneficial to arthritis patients. Medium pressure is used to relax the muscles around the aching joint. Blood flow is increased and pain is reduced. Range of movement increases and moving the body feels easier and less painful.

Another benefit is more restful sleep due to decreased pain levels. “Sleep disturbances are a real contributor to pain syndrome,” notes Tiffany Field, PhD, “It’s sort of like a vicious cycle because you have sleep disturbance, then you have pain syndrome, and when you have pain syndrome, you can’t sleep.” Regular massage helps to break the pain cycle.


Your massage therapist may also use hydrotherapy in the form of hot & cold packs, paraffin dips, or hot stone massage. Treatment depends on the area of the body and the stage of inflammation.

If the joint is hot and swollen, cold treatment is applied, never hot. Heat applied to an inflamed joint would only make it worse. Ice or a cold pack is much more effective.

If there is a chronic, dull ache in the muscles, with no inflammation, heat is applied. A bath at home with epsom salts can also be be beneficial.

A session in the infrared sauna can also help ease the symptoms of arthritis. Studies have shown that infrared sauna use assists in the reduction of inflammation and soreness through direct action on the free nerve endings, according to Justus F. Lehmann, MD, in his book Therapeutic Heat and Cold.


Get moving and keep your joints flexible! Yoga, walking, and swimming are all excellent, low-joint-impact activities. They also increase range-of-motion and strengthen the muscles around the joint.

As always, consult with your doctor as to what would be recommended for treatment of your arthritis.


If you have any of the following conditions please tell your massage therapist:

  • Damaged or eroded joints from arthritis
  • Flare of inflammation, fever or a skin rash
  • Severe osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • High blood pressure
  • Varicose veins

If you are having a flare-up, it’s best to wait until it subsides before receiving massage. If you are taking pain medication please tell your massage therapist before you get on the table.

Call Today for Relief

Call Woodstown Massage Boutique today to learn more about how massage can help your arthritis, 856-769-1373.

Relief is just a phone call away.

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Bill Martin

2 thoughts on “Massage Helps Arthritis”

    1. According to one’s needs, massage may be used weekly to alleviate a more serious concern, or monthly as a type of body maintenance. Athletes or people with chronic pain may require more frequent sessions.

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