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How To Massage Someone With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Not All Massages Are Created Equal And The Best One For You Depends On Your Symptoms

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There are dozens of different types of massage and there may be one that works better for your particular symptoms, says Jamie Bacharach, an acupuncturist and shiatsu massage therapist in Jerusalem, Israel. The type of massage you need will depend on what kind of arthritis you have and the severity of your disease, she explains. The first step is to find a massage therapist who has experience treating arthritis, she says. Tell them your concerns before you lie down on the table. She also recommends consulting with your doctor about what kind of massages would be safe and effective to treat your personal case of arthritis.

Finding A Massage Therapist

Because of the unique needs associated with your RA, make sure you find an experienced massage therapist. Ask your medical team for referrals, talk to a physical therapist, or do a search on the American Massage Therapy Association website. Make sure you have a thorough discussion with the massage therapist before treatment to make sure that they are aware of what they need to do and not do with RA. This discussion should also include details about your medical history and current condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis : Does Massage Work

Posted by Nick Ng, BA, CMT | Sep 10, 2021 | Massage | 0

Since massage therapy can help alleviate pain for many types of chronic pain conditions, its likely that it can also help your rheumatoid arthritic symptoms.

Before answering what massage can do, lets see what rheumatoid arthritis is from a scientific and two patients perspectives.

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How Massage Therapy For Gout Can Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

Treatment of the underlying issue is accomplished through medication and diet changes. However, the symptoms in the joints respond very well to massage therapy for arthritis. This includes deep tissue work, movement training, and stretching. Getting the joints to move again helps to break up the uric acid build up and lower the arthritis inflammation. Once the underlying issue is treated, massage can keep the joints mobile and help prevent any future gout attacks.

Discuss The Options With Your Client

Massage therapy has shown to be crucial in helping clients manage their ...

When your client experiences arthritis, its imperative to ask about the severity and whereabouts of the pain. This will help you gain an understanding of how soft or hard you may apply pressure. Its best to continually discuss how the patient is feeling throughout the appointment, to ensure the client isnt feeling any discomfort. Its also worth trying to gauge whether the pressure is too much by judging the persons body language and movements. Its also recommended that you confirm with the client whether they have received approval from their medical professional before they receive a massage.

Looking to upskill so you can better help your clients who suffer from arthritis? Consider enrolling in a Discover Massage Australia course today.

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How Massage Therapy In New York Can Relieve Osteoarthritis Symptoms

An experienced New York City licensed massage therapist can use deep tissue medical massage to treat osteoarthritis. Deep massage opens up stiff muscles and interrupts the nervous system to stop the splinting. This helps take pressure off the arthritic joint. Decreasing pain allows the client to use the joint without triggering the splinting. Repeated massage sessions break the feedback loop. In many cases the joint stabilizes and avoids further degeneration. In other cases, the massage work can prolong the life of a joint before requiring surgery.

Signs And Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • often starts in the hands
  • symmetrical
  • generalized fatigue, aching, stiffness, weight loss
  • affected joints hot, puffy, swollen, skin shiny and tight
  • joint stiffness overtime
  • spasm in the muscles crossing the affected joint/s
  • subluxations may occur in the joint
  • swan neck deformities: extension of proximal interphalanges, flexion of distal interphalanges
  • boutenniere deformities: flexion of proximal interphalanges, extension of distal interphalanges
  • ulnar drift of fingers
  • bakers cyst
  • neck pain

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How Massage Therapy Helps Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Moderate pressure massage is among the massage therapies that can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain. Know what to look for and what to avoid when adding this therapy to your treatment plan.

Massage isn’t just an occasional feel-good indulgence it can be a great form of rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Need proof? According to research published in the OctoberDecember 2015 issue of Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice, study participants reported relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages on arms affected by rheumatoid arthritis, supplemented with daily self-massage at home. They also reported having a stronger grip and a greater range of motion than those who were given only a light-touch massage.

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Earlier research, published in the same journal, found that massage had similar benefits for RA pain in the hands and also reported that the combination of weekly massage therapy and daily self-massage led to improved mood and better sleep.

Yet another study, published in the November 2019 issue of Chronic Pain and Management, established that moderate massage of hips also reduced pain and sleep disturbances.

Though the bodywork treatment has benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis, the question of how long those benefits might last remains unanswered. You might need ongoing treatments or tune-up visits when your symptoms of pain and stiffness return.

The Benefits Of Massage Therapy For Arthritis Patient Care*

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Massage therapy is one of the most frequently used complementary therapies for people with arthritis. It offers the following potential benefits:

  • Reduced pain
  • Better pain management
  • Improved quality of life

Although all massage therapy techniques can be adapted to the medical conditions of arthritis patients, those involving lighter pressure and less forceful manipulations should be favoured. These include circular friction, vibration, traction, and stretching.

*Massage therapy is meant to serve as a complementary therapy, which can help relieve the symptoms of a number of health conditions, including arthritis, if adapted to an individuals medical condition and administered by a competent, well-trained massage therapist. As part of a multidisciplinary approach, it should be provided in conjunction with other health disciplines .

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How Massages Help With Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to the research that has been done, massages can help to improve blood circulation, ease muscle tension, increase your overall relaxation, and boost your bodys anti-inflammatory response.

As a result, people with rheumatoid arthritis may experience less pain, improved flexibility, and a greater range of motion.

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Physical And Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy helps you to restore joint function through specific exercise. This can help alleviate pain for many patients. Activities like cooking and bathing can sometimes be difficult to perform and may cause pain. Occupational therapy will help you to learn how to change some of your daily behaviors so they arent painful.

Other professional therapy services that can help alleviate pain include massage therapy and acupuncture.

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Are There Different Types Of Massage

Massage therapy generally falls into two categories:

  • relaxation typically, this type of massage focuses on stress release and reducing general muscle tension
  • remedial or therapeutic massage this type of massage aims to address injuries and chronic muscular pain, such as that caused by arthritis. Remedial treatments target specific problem areas and are more likely to be beneficial in temporarily relieving the symptoms of arthritis, such as pain.

Researching The Effects Of Massage Therapy In Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

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The following abstract, “Positive Systemic Effects Using Therapeutic Massage as a Conjunctive Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis,” received bronze recognition from the Massage Therapy Foundation at the 2007 American Massage Therapy Association National Convention in Cincinnati. The abstract was submitted by Robin Anderson, CMT, NCTMB, who operates a private practice in the Northern Baltimore suburban region of Maryland. She is a guest massage instructor at her alma mater, the Community College of Baltimore County, and also has experience as an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer with special training in cancer recovery exercise programming, senior fitness and post-rehabilitative exercise. The abstract is reprinted here in its entirety. If you have a research abstract you would like to submit for possible publication in a future issue of Massage Today, please send an e-mail to, with massage research abstract in the subject line.

Objective: This study considered the efficacy of causing positive systemic effects translating into sustained periods of symptomatic remission in the management of rheumatoid arthritis for a recently diagnosed patient.

Therapeutic massage treatments, while able to achieve qualitative muscle release in an affected joint region, can also positively affect the physiological systems of a patient with RA and help to alleviate and prolong the deteriorating effects of the disease.




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Tell Your Massage Therapist About Any Current Injury Or Joint Damage

If you know that you have significant damage to a particular joint or have an injury, you need to tell your massage therapist before you start, says , a massage therapist in Houston, Texas. We would need to adjust the type of massage and the level of pressure used, she explains. If you have severe damage from arthritis, you absolutely need to have a therapist with specific skills and training in treating arthritis.

When You Show Up For Your Massage Treatment

Be Detailed When Explaining Your Pain. Be specific about the pain that you feel, which are the joints that hurt you and how much and how frequently it is that they hurt you. For instance, even though it can be helpful to undergo moderate-pressure massaging, Aracelli warns that the swelling and pain could actually get worse when you apply high heat or deep pressure to actively-inflamed joints. So if during the massage you feel pain at any time, be sure to tell your therapist/masseuse right away. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Lots of Water. Dr. Oz explained that the water flow in your body is affected by any massage that has any degree of pressure and if you are well-hydrated it will be more effective. Drinking half your weight in ounces of water is recommended by Southwest Physical Therapy, he said. So aim for 80 ounces of water daily if you weigh 160 pounds, and you will avoid dehydration.

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Speak Up If Something Hurts

Your comfort is our first priority and we definitely want to know if youre pain, Rose says, adding shes had clients who suffered through an entire massage only confessing at the end that they were miserable. The problem is that each person is different in their tolerance of pressure and technique and thats even more true for someone with a condition like arthritis so your therapist wont know if somethings not working for you unless you speak up, she explains. A little discomfort can be a good sign but you should never be in a lot of pain, she says.

The Four Massages You Should Try

How To Relieve Arthritis Pain

As you might expect, not all massages are equal. To get the benefits you need, there are four types of massage therapy that health experts usually recommend.

1. Myofascial Release In this form of hands-on massage, the therapist will apply focused pressure on select areas of the body for over three minutes at a time. Its been shown that this kind of concentrated effort often corrects structural changes in underlying tissue that have contributed to your pain. This type of massage may also help to stimulate blood flow and the bodys anti-inflammatory response, which can be great for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

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2. Swedish Massage This type of massage is typically the most common and is known to include long strokes that vary pressure throughout the session. A Swedish massage is great for easing tension in your muscles so it works well for people who are dealing with the stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. The good thing about this type of massage is that you can ask the therapist to modify the pressure thats used on you.

3. Hot Stone Massage With this kind of massage, you can benefit from having heat applied to tense muscles and alleviate your

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Are Massages Good For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis may find massage therapy can provide a huge relief, but scientific evidence does not find a strong support for it.

While a 2017 systematic review found that massage therapy is superior to nonactive therapies in reducing pain and improving certain functional outcomes, the quality of the studies are low to moderate.

This means that some of these studies have a high risk of bias that likely favors massage over other treatments.

The authors concluded that there needs to be larger sample populations and more rigorous methods in future studies of massage for rheumatoid arthritis.

Paul Koziolek, who is a registered massage therapist for 15 years in Toronto, Ontario, and the owner of B Street RMT, said that most patients with rheumatoid arthritis have muscle guarding, where muscles spasm and try to immobilize the injured or painful area to prevent further injury.

This is an automatic response to bone breaks and ligament, tendon or muscle tears, Koziolek said. For those with other injuries or disease processes, this can also occur to a lesser extent because of pain responses. I try to relieve this to the point where the patient has reasonable mobility and functionality for activities of daily living.

We cannot claim to heal these ailments, only provide non invasive relief. ~ Paul Kiziolek, RMT. Photo: Courtesy of Paul Kiziolek

The Myofascial Releasemassage Therapy Treatment Option For Rheumatoid Arthritis

From the many types of therapy massage available, only two myofascial release therapy and moderate-pressure massage therapy have full research support for pain relief for RA, but others can be explored by you as well because not all systems respond equally.

It is so encouraging to see the results. For example, Dr. Field led another study that Complementary Therapies in Practice published in November 2015, where it was found by the research team that greater range of motion and reduced pain was reported by the participants who received a moderate-pressure massage that targeted the knees. It is speculated by researchers that an increase in the brains serotonin output may in part be tied to the pain relief that the participants feel, which is the bodys natural pain suppressant as noted by the authors.

It could very well be a soothing addition to your RA treatment plan to add, whether weekly or more frequently, a massage treatment to it.

Consider this wonderful Myofascial Release Therapy massage choice:

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Do Any Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis Work

First, clinicians often use treatments that slow down the RA progression to the point where such progression is almost stopped and to prevent remission. In 2010, a task force of rheumatologists, other clinicians, and patients recommended such treat-to-target approach.

The task force was also updated in 2014, providing a more inclusive and holistic approach to patient care. This includes elements of narrative medicine, such as treating RA based on a shared decision between patient and rheumatologist, and the physician should involve the patient in setting the treatment target and the strategy to reach this target.

In other words, patients should have a say in what and how they should be treated.

Let Your Therapist Know About Rashes Bruising Or Cuts

Massage and Rheumatoid Arthritis

If your arthritis causes any type of skin issue, you should let your massage therapist know in advance, says Beth Rose, a licensed massage therapist in Coral Springs, Florida. Tell us what it is and how you would like us to handle it, she says. For instance, should we avoid using lotion in that area or would you like it to stay covered or just use a lighter touch there? This means the therapist wont have to interrupt your massage to ask you.

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Seeking Help And Getting Through It

I know now that the anger, self-pity, and suicidal thoughts with which I struggled were not just me being dramatic. It was me suffering from disease and going through the cycle of pain and stages of grief.

This was especially heightened during the postpartum depression I experienced after the birth of my son, when my hormones and inflammation were raging uncontrollably. That was when I saw that I needed help from a health care professional.

A clinical social worker was a key component in my health care team and helping me accept my new life. Before my diagnosis I had no idea what mental health care could offer me, and how much I needed that compassion. Not all health care providers who save you are patching up wounds or prescribing medication. Some simply listen to you and help you understand you are not alone.

As I went through medication after medication, I found myself having to stop many because the side effects exasperated my poor mental health state. I learned why some drug commercials say that medications may cause suicidal thoughts and actions or increased depression. It takes time to find the right RA medication that works for your symptoms and doesnt cause too many side effects.

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