Client Education: What Research Says About Massage and Joint Issues

When talking about relieving joint issues, the role of massage therapy is broadening to include not only pain but other symptoms, like edema and range of motion.

 February 1, 2023

As the nation ages, so will the number of clients you see who need help managing painful joints. The source may be arthritis or injury or postoperative healing, and you might find the role of massage therapy is broadened to include not only pain but other symptoms, like edema and range of motion.

Massage After Knee Arthroplasty

Researchers wanted to know how manual lymphatic drainage and Kinesio Taping might benefit lower extremity edema and pain, and improve function for patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty. Controlling some of these early symptoms can be critical for long-term outcomes.

The Study. Participants included 45 female patients with unilateral total knee arthroplasty who were assigned to either an additional postoperative manual lymphatic drainage massage with exercises, additional Kinesio Taping session with exercises or exercise only. Each group was comprised of 15 people.

Lower limb circumference, range of motion, pain level and knee osteoarthritis score were all compared among the three study groups.

The Results. Both the manual lymphatic drainage and Kinesio Taping groups had reduced edema and lower pain levels when compared to the exercise only group on postoperative day four, and these results continued until two weeks postoperatively but diminished by week six.

“Additional manual lymphatic drainage or Kinesio Taping applications to standard exercises were both effective on early-stage lower extremity edema and pain levels,” researchers noted. “Clinicians might implement one of these applications to the standard rehabilitation programs to control pain and edema following total knee arthroplasty.”

Related: Updates in Research: Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Massage After Laparoscopic Surgery

After laparoscopic surgery, shoulder pain is common. Researchers focused on how massage therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may benefit routine treatment and increase pain relief.

The Study. Participants included 138 patients who underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy who were randomly divided into three groups: massage plus conventional pharmacological treatment, TENS and conventional pharmacological treatment, and conventional pharmacological treatment.

Both massage and TENS were performed three consecutive times after patients regained consciousness in the inpatient wards, and intensity of shoulder pain was evaluated using a visual analog scale before and after each 20-minute treatment.

The Results. For all three measured times, both massage and TENS showed a significant reduction in shoulder pain intensity when compared to the control group. “This study’s findings suggest that massage and TENS techniques could reduce post-laparoscopic shoulder pain,” researchers add.

Related: The Value of Massage Research


1. Guney-Deniz H, Kinikli G, Aylar S, Sevinç C, Canlar A, Yüksel I. “Manual lymphatic drainage and Kinesin Taping applications reduce early-stage lower extremity edema and pain following total knee arthroplasty.” Physiother Theory Pract. 2023 Aug 3;39(8):1582–1590.

2. Mottahedi M, Shamsi M, Babani S, Goli S, Rizevandi P. “Comparing the effect of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and massage therapy on post laparoscopic shoulder pain: a randomized clinical trial.” BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2023 Sep 28;24(1):764.