Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage cushions between the joints break down, causing pain and stiffness. Cartilage is a firm, rubbery tissue that cushions bones and surrounds the joints, allowing bones to glide over one another. There are several factors thought to cause the breakdown of the cartilage surrounding joints. Cartilage can break down with age, but it can also tear away as the result of an injury. Other factors that could cause osteoarthritis include a genetic predisposition, a weight problem (being overweight increases the risk of cartilage wearing down in the hip, knee, and ankle joints), fractures, or long-term overuse from athletic activities.
Without the cartilage, when the bones rub together it can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain. There is also the possibility of a ripple effect when one joint loses cartilage. Other, related joints can over-compensate or can’t function normally, causing ligaments to become weak. An estimated 12 percent of Americans suffer from osteoarthritis between their early teen years and their mid-70s.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are alternative solutions to surgery that can relieve the symptoms of pain and stiffness. Chronic osteoarthritis responds well to massage, as many of the benefits of massage naturally align with alleviating the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Massage can decrease pain, and increase mobility—helping to reverse the results of joint stiffness. A massage treatment can increase the blood flow to areas of arthritis, bringing in oxygen to help heal the afflicted area. Additionally, massage can flush out toxic inflammatory substances that have built up in the area, as well as decrease stress and instill a feeling of wellbeing.
There are many forms of massage, each with its own set of benefits. Each form of massage is best suited to different ailments. For osteoarthritis, it’s best to avoid deep tissue or lymphatic massage. The Asian Bodywork modalities and massage techniques best equipped to alleviate swelling and pain like that caused by osteoarthritis include trigger point, reflexology, Swedish, and Shiatsu massage.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found massage therapy effective at reducing pain and improving function in people suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. The American Massage Therapy Association states that massage therapy use in hospitals has increased by 30 percent in the last two years. Of the hospitals that have massage therapy programs, 71 percent indicate they offer massage therapy for patient stress management and comfort while more than two-thirds (67 percent) utilize massage therapy for pain management.
Massage is a safe, non-invasive, all natural option for those suffering from osteoarthritis. With consistent use, massage can not only relieve the residual pain caused by the condition, but can also improve flexibility and mobility in the affected areas. A massage therapist trained in Asian Bodywork can tailor a massage treatment plan for the individual, helping them to receive the best possible results of this gentle therapy.