Integrative Health Care + Arthritis
what can I do for you and your loved ones? This is the second in this week’s series. Watch for more each day.
Arthritis is one of the most common conditions in America, as well as one of the most painful. With symptoms that range from pain and swelling to reduced range of motion and stiffness, arthritis can seriously inhibit a person’s ability to maintain a normal or active lifestyle. Pain medications are often prescribed or purchased over-the-counter, but can have some side effects, like stomach upset, that can further impact daily living. New research, however, is showing that massage therapy may be the ideal nonpharmacological substitute.
The Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment conducted a systematic review of treatments for chronic pain, one of the key symptoms of arthritis. Their research indicates there is “strong scientific evidence” that massage reduces chronic pain by 20 to 30 percent more than treatment that does not involve physical movements.4
In 2018, a study by the Health Qualitative Research Center of Birjand University looked at the effects of aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil on osteoarthritis, one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders. Results showed that after one week of treatment, the quality of daily life was increased significantly.5 Tatninov also sees success with aromatherapy, finding that for her clients with chronic pain conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia, lavender and other oil blends can help with relaxation.
Additionally, numerous studies on osteoarthritis suggest that massage therapy can help with the pain involved in joint degeneration, as well as stiffness and function.6,7 One randomized controlled study found that participants who received an eight-week massage therapy intervention for symptoms associated with osteoarthritis of the knee had significant improvement when compared to those who received usual care.8 A similar study of 125 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that a one-hour course of massage given for eight weeks provided better pain relief than usual medical care.9 Even when compared to just exercise, researchers found that patients with knee arthritis pain who received massage therapy with exercise showed significant improvement on the pain scale, get-up-and-go test and the WOMAC index.10
Working with clients with chronic pain conditions, however, does require massage therapists to make some adjustments. According to Tatninov, some of her clients who have been receiving massage therapy for a time can handle and request deeper pressure, while others who are new to the practice may need a lighter touch. “I will check in more than I would with an average client to make sure the pressure I am using is comfortable,” she adds.
Jeana Anderson, C.N.H.P., LMT, CEIM, CBS
Natural Helping Hands, LLC