Patients With Osteoarthritis Benefit From Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a safe and effective way to treat osteoarthritis by improving function and reducing pain. More and more research with positive results is making this possible. Swedish massage refers to a variety of techniques specifically designed to relax muscles by applying long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart and applying pressure against deeper muscles and bones. The main purpose of Swedish massage is to increase the level of oxygen flow in the blood, decrease toxins from the muscles and improve circulation.

In Western culture the most practiced form of massage is undoubtedly Swedish massage. First introduced in the 19th century, Swedish masseuses were thought to have borrowed many of their techniques from traditional China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome masseuses.

Swedish massage:

• Shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissues of lactic acid, uric acid, and other metabolic wastes

• Increases circulation without increasing heart load

• Stretches the ligaments and tendons keeping them supple and pliable

• Stimulates the skin and nervous system and soothes the nerves themselves at the same time

• Reduces stress, both emotional and physical, and is suggested in a regular program for stress management; and carries out many specific medical uses

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in your joints. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but usually it affects your hands, knees, hips or spine.

Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage in your joints. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage absorbs the shock of movement. When you lose cartilage, your bones rub together. Over time, this rubbing can permanently damage the joint.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:

• Being overweight

• Getting older

• Injuring a joint

Let’s dig into this very positive and reassuring study of Swedish massage and its effectiveness with osteoarthritis of the knee.

A 16 week study involving 68 participants diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee was conducted at the Yale Prevention Research Center to identify the potential benefits of Swedish massage on osteoarthritis including pain, stiffness and limited range of motion.

The participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group that received massage therapy immediately, or to a wait-list control group that received massage after an initial eight-week delay. Both groups were encouraged to continue previously prescribed medications and treatments.

Participants in the massage intervention group received a standard one-hour Swedish massage twice a week for four weeks, followed by Swedish massage once a week for the next four weeks After the first eight weeks of massage therapy, participants had improved flexibility, less pain and improved range of motion.

The group that received no massage for the first 8 weeks showed no improvement in symptoms. During weeks nine through 16, they received the massage intervention and experienced benefits similar to those receiving the initial massage therapy. When reassessed eight weeks after completion of the massage intervention, the benefits of massage persisted and remained significant.

The senior investigator stated “Massage is free of any known side effects and according to our results, clearly shows therapeutic promise.” He continued with “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.”

In conclusion, another investigator stated that “Our results suggest that massage therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment for osteoarthritis.” “Ultimately, massage may be shown to lessen a patient’s reliance on medications and decrease health care costs.”