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Massage for Arthritis

What’s the Best Massage for Arthritis in My Back and Neck?

Question:

I’ve recently been diagnosed with arthritis in my back and neck, and the pain of flare-ups can be excruciating. Soreness often lingers for days after I have a flare-up, causing a lot of stress and anxiety. In addition to the soreness, I find that my back and neck are often stiff, which makes it difficult for me to get a good night’s sleep. I know massage promotes relaxation, but apart from that, are there any massage techniques that could help ease my arthritis pain?

Answer:

Pain from arthritis in your back and neck can be debilitating, and seriously interfere with your usual daily activities. The good news is that regular massage therapy may not only ease your soreness and general tension, it can also reduce your overall symptoms of arthritis over time. Regular massage therapy may even reduce the number and frequency of flare-ups. This can happen because massage can stimulate your body to release its own endorphins that block the pain signal, according to the University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic.[1]

The Arthritis Foundation points to research done at the University of Miami School of Medicine that showed weekly massages coupled with daily massages significantly reduced arthritis-related pain and increased the range of motion in patients’ necks.[2] Further studies have demonstrated improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, and overall function of joints with regular massage therapy.[3]

Even if you don’t see a significant reduction in your arthritis pain, you can still benefit from regular massage therapy. Massage treatment reduces tension, improves circulation, and can loosen stiff joints to give you increased mobility. You may also have decreased soreness and find it easier to get a full night’s rest.[4]

You don’t have to disrupt your schedule to have regular sessions with a licensed massage therapist. Schedule your sessions at a place and time that works for you – you can even have the therapist come to your home for maximum privacy and comfort. Tell your massage therapist about your arthritis, and if you’ve had any flare-ups recently. Start with a more gentle Swedish massage. If you see results, you may want to progress to deep tissue massage for more targeted therapy of your back and neck.

Plan massage sessions once a week or once every other week. In between sessions, there are basic ways you can massage your neck on your own to maximize the benefits of the treatment. Ask your massage therapist for techniques you can practice on your own, or talk to your doctor about using massage therapy to help treat your arthritis.

References:

[1] University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic: “Managing Arthritis Pain” http://www.orthop.washington.edu/?q=patient-care/articles/arthritis/managing-arthritis-pain.html

[2] Arthritis Foundation: “Reduce Neck Pain From Arthritis With Massage” http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/neck-pain-arthritis-massage/

[3] Arthritis Foundation: “Benefits of Massage” http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/massage/massage-benefits.php

[4] Western Journal of Medicine: “Massage therapies” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071543/

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