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Massage for Tendonitis

What’s the Best Massage for Tendonitis Inflammation?

Question:

I was recently diagnosed with tendonitis. I have problems with swelling around my knee, and anti-inflammatory drugs don’t really seem to be helping. I was talking to a friend about it, and turns out she had the same problem a couple months ago. She recommended massage therapy. What’s the best massage for tendonitis inflammation?

Answer:

Ultimately, deep tissue massage may be the best massage style to combat tendonitis, according to a study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.[1] Generally speaking, massage therapy stops the injury cycle by stimulating circulation and cell activity. This introduces healthy collagen to the area to promote healing. Beyond that, regular massage therapy can significantly reduce or even eliminate pain, as well as increasing the strength and range of motion in the affected joint.[2]

Sports massage, which combines more gentle Swedish techniques with deep-tissue work, can also be effective for tendonitis inflammation and pain. The technique enhances circulation and uses friction to break up scar tissue, which can also reduce swelling.[3]

A few caveats are needed here. You shouldn’t book a massage within 48 hours after the initial onset of the injury, or if your knee is noticeably swollen or inflamed – massage could exacerbate your condition or cause more pain in this situation.[4] You also shouldn’t book a massage if your pain level is high. Your body has to heal from the massage as well as the injury. If you have a high level of pain, a massage could result in more inflammation, not less.[5] So if your timing’s off, a massage could actually make your condition worse, not better.

Medical science is not entirely convinced of the effectiveness of massage therapy for tendinopathy. One research review published in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation noted that while there was excellent anecdotal evidence, it had not been established that massage alone was an effective treatment for tendonitis.

If you want to try massage therapy to treat your tendonitis, do so in conjunction with other treatments. It’s important to understand that massage is meant as a complementary treatment, not as a substitute. You’ll achieve the best results if you continue any medications or physical therapy recommended by your doctor. Start with weekly massages for 3 to 4 weeks and see if you notice a difference. After that, you may be able to book your massages less frequently.

Discuss your current treatment in detail with your massage therapist so they can adapt their techniques to provide you the most benefit. Let them know of any changes that develop over the course of your treatment. Ideally, you may find it better to re-book with the same therapist to ensure continuity of treatment. However, you should feel free to work with different therapists as needed to fit your schedule and your treatment goals.

References:

[1] International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork: “Tendinopathy: Why the Difference Between Tendinitis and Tendinosis Matters,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312643/

[2] Id.

[3] Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Massage Therapy for Tendonitis,” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/12/04/massage-therapy-tendonitis

[4] Id.

[5] Massage Magazine: “Pain and Inflammation: Could Massage Make It Worse?” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/12/04/massage-therapy-tendonitis

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