Arthritis and Massage

Research shows that massage therapy may be the ideal nonpharmacological treatment for arthritis. 

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions in America, as well as one of the most painful. With symptoms that range from pain and swelling to reduced range of motion and stiffness, arthritis can seriously inhibit a person’s ability to maintain a normal or active lifestyle.

Pain medications are often prescribed or purchased over-the-counter but can have some side effects, like stomach upset, that can further impact daily living. New research, however, is showing that massage therapy may be the ideal nonpharmacological substitute.

Massage Therapy Benefits for Arthritis:

  • Reduce chronic pain + stiffness
  • Improve joint mobility + function
  • Promote more restful sleep
  • Enhance quality-of-life
  • Promote relaxation

Related Online Continuing Education Courses

Learn how massage therapy can help those suffering from arthritis with AMTA’s NCBTMB-approved online CE courses.

Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis

$30.00 members / $50.00 non-members    2.0 CE credits

Learn the symptoms, those most at risk and how massage can help the most common form of arthritis. Explore techniques to help manage the pain of osteoarthritis and increase flexibility.

Register Now

Arthritis + Massage Therapy Video Course

$15.00 members / $25.00 non-members    1.0 CE credit

Hear research on the effects of massage therapy as a stand-alone treatment for pain and functional outcomes for those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.  

Register Now

Massage for Osteoarthritis

Millions of adults in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease that has historically been described as “wear and tear” of the weight-bearing joints of the body, causing changes in the joints’ cartilage, lining and underlying bone. Numerous studies on osteoarthritis suggest that massage therapy can help with the pain involved in joint degeneration, as well as stiffness and function.

A recent study by the Health Qualitative Research Center of Birjand University looked at the effects of aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil on osteoarthritis. Results showed that after one week of treatment, the quality of daily life was increased significantly.

Massage Therapy and Osteoarthritis of the Knee

As the largest and most complex joint in the body, the knee is a common place for people to develop osteoarthritis.

One randomized controlled study found that participants who received an eight-week massage therapy intervention for symptoms associated with osteoarthritis of the knee had significant improvement when compared to those who received usual care.

 A similar study of 125 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that a one-hour course of massage given for eight weeks provided better pain relief than usual medical care. Even when compared to just exercise, researchers found that patients with knee arthritis pain who received massage therapy with exercise showed significant improvement on the pain scale, get-up-and-go test and the WOMAC index.

Massage and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Massage therapy has also shown to be effective in helping clients manage rheumatoid arthritis, however, this population may need a more gentle touch. Starting with techniques that focus on improving circulation, such as effleurage, Swedish massage, and craniosacral therapy can be beneficial in reducing the pain experienced with RA.

Many RA clients who continue with regular massage therapy discover that their pain continues to decrease while their activity levels increase, improving their quality of life.  Specific benefits included greater grip strength and better range of motion in the wrists and larger upper joints (elbows and shoulders).