Banish Your Arthritis With Massage!

Arthritis pain is no laughing matter. When the doctor says, “rheumatoid arthritis,” this can become real torture. Most people spend the rest of their life trying to slow down its effects.

Advancing age and cold weather seem to pile on even more debilitating agony.

First come the rubbing ointments, perhaps Ben Gay. Then people try the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen.

After that, physicians start ramping up the pills.  There are corticosteroids such as Prednisone. When these lose their effect, you’re given the more serious (and cytotoxic) slow-acting anti-rheumatic drugs (SAARDs) such as Methotrexate.

Yet after all these, the pain never really goes away. Not after all the pills, therapeutic devices and maybe even the joint replacement surgeries.

Can massage help you cope?

Doctors wondered about this for a long time. First there were stories, then there were studies.

In 2006, Yale researchers started the first clinical trial. Sixteen weeks and 64 arthritis sufferers. The results were clear: massage therapy improves flexibility, lessens pain, and increases range of motion.

How often would you need a massage? What could you expect?


Promising answers came a year later. A group of arthritis patients was given 60 to 90-minute massages, once a week for 7 weeks. A final massage was given to each on week 10.


At the beginning, study participants described their joint pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the strongest pain possible. The average seemed to be around 7.


After only 3 massage sessions using Swedish massage and basic muscle release techniques, a number of them happily reported their pain level was zero.


No pain.


Did it last? Amazingly, they felt no pain for the rest of the study. One of the participants reported no pain, even 38 days after the last treatment.


Results varied and some continued their doctor-prescribed pain medication throughout the trial period.


However, one theme came up again and again. Massage caused most of the research subjects to get more and deeper sleep.


Before the massage therapy, they were like most arthritis sufferers – unable to enjoy deeper sleep.


Tiffany Field, PhD and director of the Touch Research Institute comments: “When you are deprived of deep sleep, certain kinds of pain chemicals are released.”


Field’s study, published in September of 2014, revealed that as little as 15 minutes of massage significantly reduced arthritis neck pain and improved range of motion. Subjects also showed improved grip strength and greatly reduced pain in hands and knees – all because of massage therapy.


More and more studies are confirming these findings. They may differ in how often massages are given. Nonetheless, even the Mayo Clinic now recommends regular massage for treating many kinds of pain – even migraine headaches.


Just in case, it may be best not to expect miracles, but massage looks like it’s working far better than all those costly pills.