How to Help Arthritis Using Massage Therapy

It’s normal to shy away from touch when you’re used to being sore. We’re here to tell you this can change. You can start by considering having a massage for arthritis treatments from a registered massage therapist (RMT). This can be a great, short-term, drug-free solution to help relieve arthritis and painful stiffness symptoms while allowing you to continue to move your body. Let’s explore the most common types of arthritis pain and the most common types of massage for arthritis to help start your arthritis treatment plan.

Understanding Different Types of Arthritis Pain

There are numerous types of arthritis pain, with some of the most common ones explored in the following text. Arthritis can take on various forms, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, each with its own distinct characteristics. These conditions can cause joint discomfort, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Gaining insight into these prevalent arthritis types is essential for effective management and treatment.

This type of arthritis pain affects the whole joint, making joint movement difficult and painful. It is a degenerative disease, meaning protective cartilage and fluid are increasingly deteriorating over time due to cell changes. Severe pain may eventually occur as a result of the bones of the joint rubbing against one another. Osteoarthritis can also cause inflammation, which affects the hips, knees, hands, and the spine most commonly. 

Pain intensity can range from mild to moderate and varies from person to person. For some individuals, however, osteoarthritis can be debilitating, to the point where it makes any movement of the affected joint difficult. Massage for osteoarthritis can help by easing the muscle stiffness associated with the disease and can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation.

In this type of arthritis pain, the tissues of joints and other organs are attacked by the body’s dysfunctional immune system. A healthy immune system is supposed to protect a person from bacteria, viruses, and other invaders when it is triggered by inflammation. For those suffering from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation becomes overactive, and healthy tissue, for example, the lining of the joints, is attacked. 

Permanent damage to the joints and other organs can eventually occur by way of persistent inflammation, in the process, creating worsening pain. Typically, rheumatoid arthritis affects parallel joints on both sides of the body, such as hands or knees. Internal organs can also be affected including the heart, eyes, and liver. Rheumatoid arthritis massage therapy can help those living with this pain by reducing swelling, improving healthy circulation throughout the arthritic joints, and improving quality of life.

Similar to rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, this type of arthritis pain is as a result of the immune system attacking the body, especially joints and skin, causing pain and skin rashes. It is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that typically occurs in people who have psoriasis. As the production of skin cells accelerates, this autoimmune disease causes scaley, red, or silver skin patches that can be painful or itchy and can increasingly cause more pain if they become dry and cracked. 

Furthermore, psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint and may also affect the areas where ligaments or tendons attach to bones. Enthesitis is the inflammation of these areas and most commonly affects the lower back and the heel or bottom of the foot. Arthritis massage therapy can be an effective treatment for those suffering from psoriatic arthritis because it can ease muscle and joint tension and may promote circulation and relaxation. 

This type of arthritis affects many parts of the body including the joints, blood, kidneys, brain, skin, and other organs. It is a complex autoimmune inflammatory disease that can cause joint pain, chest pain, and headaches, as well as several other symptoms including hair loss, fevers, kidney problems, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and rashes.

Therapy massage for arthritis can increase pain relieving endorphins which can help relieve the aches and pains of those living with Lupus.


Understand the Science Behind the Relief

“What can be done for arthritis in the back” and “How to help arthritis pain” are two common questions we frequently receive. A registered massage therapist may help relieve arthritic pain and increase muscle, joint, and tendon flexibility. Massages reduce inflammation and relieve pain linked with arthritis by increasing circulation and reducing muscular tightness. This means you’ll have increased blood flow to arthritic joints, better mobility, and less discomfort.

Massages involve pressure and stimulation on soft tissue to assist against the release of muscular tension, resulting in increased flexibility and pain reduction. Many individuals living with arthritis can confirm that less pain and more flexibility can help keep you moving, breaking the pattern of being uncomfortable, stiff, and inactive.

Different Benefits for Different Symptoms

Massages can assist with various types of arthritis in different ways. A massage, for example, helps enhance healthy circulation throughout the arthritic joints, lowering swelling and enhancing the quality of life especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

However, massages on the afflicted joints should be avoided during an RA flare up to avoid further irritation and pain. Furthermore, a massage can assist with osteoarthritis by reducing swelling and discomfort, improving joint mobility, and relieving tension and stress.

Types of Massage

Before committing to any type of massage therapy, consult with your doctor or physiotherapist to make sure arthritis massage therapy is right for you and that it’s safe if you have any other health concerns. It’s also important to inform your massage therapist that you have arthritis, prior to your massage, and specifically point out the particular affected joints. 

Swedish massage is one of the most popular types of massage that is aimed to reduce muscle soreness and joint stiffness. It also improves circulation and can help reduce anxiety with this specific massage technique and your therapist can adjust the pressure as you need.

This type of massage suits those who experience severe pain or tension in the connective tissues and muscles. By applying intense and focused pressure, deep tissue massage manipulates both the deep and top layers of your muscles and tissues, providing relief. If you experience arthritis, we do not recommend this type of massage as it may cause lingering soreness.

Hot stone massage involves laying on your stomach with heated stones placed on your back. These stones release soothing heat to relax muscles and relieve tension. Contrastly, cold stones can help with injuries and swelling caused by sore muscles, swelling or exercise-related injuries. Some therapists use both hot and cold stones for various benefits or temperature contrast.

Rolfing is a type of structural integration massage. The process involves therapists manipulating fascia tissues while positioning the body in specific ways. Rolfing aims to restore range of motion, improve posture, and alleviate pain while promoting relaxation. It’s notably effective for addressing knee arthritis.

This type of Japanese massage therapy technique is quite popular due to the rhythmic motions. Massage therapists will use the palms and fingers in rhythmic, continuous motions to apply pressure to specific points of the body. Like other Asian healing philosophies, shiatsu aims to restore healthy energy, also known as the flow of qi, in the body. Notably different from other North American massages, during shiatsu, you typically remain fully clothes, and no oils are used.

This type of massage therapy involves the massage therapist applying vibration or pressure into myofascial trigger points, designed to relieve pain in particular areas of the body. Trigger points are points where knots may form in the muscles and to ease pain and relax those knots, the pinpointed pressure is applied. Please note that trigger point therapy that involves injections into the trigger points should only be performed in a doctor’s office, chiropractic or physical therapy office, or any other licensed clinical setting.

What to Expect During Massage

If you have never experienced massage therapy before, you may be wondering what exactly should I expect? At your first massage therapy session, your massage therapist will ask you about your current levels of discomfort and where the pain is located. They will also inquire about your medical history. The massage therapist will perform rudimentary tests to confirm their initial clinical impression of what may be at the root of the problem, and answer whether massage is good for your arthritis. 

Moreover, the practitioner will discuss what you can expect to achieve from the current massage session and what the additional follow-up visits will look like moving forward.

After discussing the aforementioned information, the massage begins, and depending on the problem being treated, the type of massage and the body part being massaged will vary. You may be asked to lay in a certain position, remove clothing, or prepare for oil or lotion application. 

Throughout the session, the therapist will ask if the pressure applied is too little or too much and will adjust accordingly based on your level of comfort and sensitivity. A massage session can be as short as 30 minutes, and as thorough as 90 minutes, depending on the severity of your situation.

Preparing for Arthritis Massage

Practicing self-massage therapy on a regular basis will help you prepare for arthritis massage done by a professional. It will improve your overall comfort and sensitivity levels and increase the range of motion in arthritic joints. Self-massage therapy can be performed by starting with large, vigorous strokes to help prepare the muscles by warming them up, then targeting specific areas with smaller, precise strokes. 

Applying lotion or oil directly to the skin makes gliding or sliding strokes easier to execute and applying heat prior to self-massage can help your muscles feel better as you work with them because they will be relaxed. Even if you regularly receive massage therapy from a professional, self-massaging between those sessions will certainly help extend the benefits of your massage.

Post Massage Care

What you do after your massage is an integral part of your overall massage experience. Your post-treatment care determines how long your state of relaxation will last and what you get out of each session. Some of the most effective post-massage practices include simply drinking water, eating, and resting. This allows your body a chance to rehydrate, refuel, repair, and recover. 

Stretching, hydrotherapy, and taking a bath are also effective practices to consider after a massage. Stretching works to improve muscle recovery and realigns your muscle fibers, hydrotherapy helps prompt a deeper night’s sleep, prolongs your sense of relaxation, and encourages greater muscle recovery, and having a bath, particularly with Epsom salts added, will open up your blood vessels, help heal any aches and pains, increase circulation, and encourage rest!

Consult the Experts

To find out if massage treatments is the appropriate route and suitable for the type of arthritis you have, it is best to consult your doctor or rheumatologist. Consulting with the experts allows you to ask specific questions based on your situation such as “How to help arthritis in hands” and “How to get rid of arthritis” or “What type of massage for arthritis is best.” At your first massage session complete your health history form, which you and your RMT will review so they can build an effective treatment plan. Some massages, such as full body massage or deep tissue massage for your arthritic joint during a flare-up, may not be suitable for you. Your medical team can assist you in determining the best course of action for you. If you have an employer-sponsored health-benefit plan, your massage may be covered in part or whole, so verify with your insurance and save your receipt.
Our registered massage therapists at Knead Wellness have years of experience under their belt and have seen a variety of cases to understand every unique situation- from rheumatoid arthritis back pain to a massage for knee arthritis.

If you have any more questions or want to know which of our services is right for you, simply call our Toronto massage therapy centre and we will be happy to help you.

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