Spa Wellness: Rubbing Out Arthritis

A recent study validates the benefits of massage on arthritis.

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A new study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine and published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Journal supports what bodywork therapists have known for years: Massage can help alleviate the painful and debilitating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

For the study, 42 adults suffering from RA in the upper limbs were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups received massage therapy once a week for four weeks and were taught self-massage techniques to be performed daily. But one group received light pressure massage and the other, moderate pressure. At the end of the four weeks, the group that had received moderate pressure reported reduced pain and increased flexibility and strength in affected areas: wrists, elbows and shoulders. Both groups noticed decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“As patients with rheumatoid arthritis work with their doctors to determine the best treatment options, we recommend discussing routine massage therapy,” says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., who led the study. “In addition to physical activity such as yoga, moderate pressure massage therapy, along with self-massage techniques, can help manage the pain and stress that results from various forms of arthritis.”

The study was performed with support from the Massage Envy chain, which also partnered with the Arthritis Foundation (AF) in 2011 to help raise funds and awareness for the organization, and is sponsoring the Foundation’s 250 Arthritis Walk events taking place now through November in 130 cities around the country.

“Walking is a proven way to keep joints healthy and gain support in your community,” says Cindy McDaniel, vice president of consumer health, Arthritis Foundation. “We hope that families across the nation will join us as we raise funds to find a cure.”

The AF reports that one in every five adults and 300,000 children in the U.S. are afflicted with some form of arthritis, and it is the nation’s leading cause of disability. To learn more, visit the Foundation’s website at arthritis.org.