Osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints, is the most common type of arthritis. It affects nearly 27 million Americans. According to the National Institute on Health, it is caused by a breakdown of cartilage. The surface layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away. This results in bones under the cartilage rubbing together, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Bone spurs develop, permanently changing the joint’s shape.
In a recent study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), researchers found potential for the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee. The study included 125 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: one group to receive one of four eight-week doses of Swedish massage (30 or 60 minutes weekly or twice weekly), and the other group to receive usual care (their current treatment without massage therapy). Participant’s pain, function, and joint flexibility levels were measured at the start of the study and at 8, 16, and 24 week intervals after the study began.
The study showed some significant results:
- At 8 weeks, participants in the 60-minute massage group—both once a week and twice a week—had significant improvements in pain, function, and global response compared with participants in the usual care group.
- Pain intensity had the greatest reduction in the 60-minute, once-per-week group and was significantly reduced compared to both the usual care and 30-minute groups.
- Compared to usual care, all the massage groups had similar reductions in stiffness, though range-of-motion was not significantly affected by usual care or massage.
- At 24 weeks, the clinical benefits had reduced for both groups—usual care and massage groups—and were not significantly different between the groups, though they were still improved compared to the start of the study.
The conclusion of the study suggests that a 60-minute Swedish massage given once a week for pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee was “both optimal and practical.” Though more research with larger trials is needed, the proof seems to support the idea that there is a benefit for the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Interested in starting a career in massage therapy?
If you’d like to lend a healing hand to those in physical need, or even in a salon or spa setting, LHAA offers a highly-focused and comprehensive Massage Therapy program designed for motivated students looking to create their own career. Learn more here.
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