New research shows massage may help with knee osteoarthritis

Massage has long been used to help reduce pain and stiffness for people with arthritis. A new study, published in December 2018, adds more evidence in support of this practice. A team of researchers in North Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut showed regular massage can decrease pain and stiffness for patients with knee osteoarthritis. Their research was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. 

Knee osteoarthritis is characterized by the knee cartilage gradually wearing away over time. It is most common in people over 50 years old. Osteoarthritis can cause pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. 

In this new study, researchers randomly placed 222 people with knee osteoarthritis into three groups: Swedish massage, light touch or usual care. Light touch involved a massage therapist gently placing their hands in a specific sequence on the patients major muscle groups and joints presumably to test for any placebo effect connected to touch. Usual care simply meant the normal, prescribed care regimen. The study participants received a whole-body Swedish massage or the light-touch treatment once a week for eight weeks.

In order to assess the effects of the different treatments, researchers administered a common questionnaire used to evaluate the condition of patients with arthritis. From the questionnaire responses, the researchers found eight weeks of massage caused statistically and clinically significant improvements in pain, stiffness and physical function for the osteoarthritis patients. The side effects were minimal.

These findings support prior research showing massage benefits patients with knee osteoarthritis. The long-term benefits of massage for knee osteoarthritis remain unclear. In this study, massage therapy continued to improve patients’ symptoms, but no more so than their usual care. 

Massage improves circulation and muscle relaxation. It can also improve sleep patterns, lengthening or deepening the time the body uses to repair and heal while we are asleep. If you or someone you know suffers from knee osteoarthritis, massage might be just the thing to help them get back on their feet.

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