Massage Therapy Helps Ease Pain From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Published on: December 17, 2021

Published By: Southwest Myofascial Release

Massage Therapy Helps Ease Pain From Rheumatoid Arthritis

Massage Therapy Helps Ease Pain From Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis pain can be relieved with the help of moderate pressure massage. If you’re planning on adding this therapy to your treatment plan, Southwest Myofascial Release will show you what to avoid and what to look for.

An occasional feel-good indulgence isn’t just what a massage is  — it is actually a great form of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Want some proof? The October–December 2015 issue of Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice published some research on this where, after 4 once-a-week moderate-pressure massages on rheumatoid-arthritis-inflicted arms, supplemented with daily self-massages at home, study participants reported relief from their stiffness and chronic pain. According to their report, their range of motion was greater and their grip stronger than those who were given only a light-touch placebo massage.

The same journal had published earlier research reporting that the combination of daily self-massage and weekly massage therapy led to better sleep and improved mood, and had also found that in the hands of people with RA pain, massage had similar optimal benefits.

And another study that was published in the November 2019 issue of Chronic Pain and Management, also established that sleep disturbances and pain were reduced with moderate massaging of the hips.

The latter two studies were led by massage therapy expert Tiffany Field, PhD, founder and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. “Pressure that moves the skin”, is how Dr. Field defined moderate pressure for the research that looked at massage for RA pain on the arms. Light pressure was found by her team to be less effective than moderate pressure in an earlier study.  However, comfort levels vary according to each person because of the fact that every person has their own individualized comfort level. “You will be asked by the massage therapist where it is that you feel the pain and whether the pressure being applied by them is also enough,” Dr. Field said. To duplicate the results of her research, just aim for firm pressure that is not deep enough to be painful.

Though people with rheumatoid arthritis can indeed benefit from the bodywork treatment, the question that remains unanswered is how long those benefits might last. Tune-up visits or ongoing treatments might be needed by you when your symptoms of stiffness and pain return. “It has been shown that pain can be temporarily reduced with massage,” explained A. Lynn Millar, PhD, physical therapist and fellow emeritus of the American College of Sports Medicine. The good thing is, she added, that there’s no reason why massage shouldn’t be included as part of your RA treatment. Nevertheless, before starting any massage therapy, the Arthritis Foundation urges you to first check with your rheumatologist to make sure that for your individual health needs it is appropriate.

The Myofascial Release Massage Therapy Treatment Option for Rheumatoid Arthritis

From the many types of therapy massage available, only two — myofascial release therapy and moderate-pressure massage therapy — have full research support for pain relief for RA, but others can be explored by you as well because not all systems respond equally.

It is so encouraging to see the results. For example, Dr. Field led another study that Complementary Therapies in Practice published in November 2015, where it was found by the research team that greater range of motion and reduced pain was reported by the participants who received a moderate-pressure massage that targeted the knees. It is speculated by researchers that an increase in the brain’s serotonin output may in part be tied to the pain relief that the participants feel, which is the body’s natural pain suppressant as noted by the authors.  

It could very well be a soothing addition to your RA treatment plan to add, whether weekly or more frequently, a massage treatment to it.

Consider this wonderful Myofascial Release Therapy massage choice:

Massage Therapy Helps Ease Pain From Rheumatoid Arthritis

Myofascial Release.  This is an all-natural, organic hands-on therapy treatment that breaks up tight connective tissue by involving longer or sustained pressure on select areas of the body. “Myofascial release involves applying gentle, sustained pressure into connective tissue,” explains Aracelli. “It elongates muscle fibers to help restore motion and eliminate fibromyalgia and myofascial pain.” Research shows this treatment therapy provides relief of chronic pain and other RA symptoms when applied three times a week for two weeks. Myofascial release physical therapist, Carol Davis, EdD, professor emerita of physical therapy at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, as part of the research studied what myofascial release does in the treatment of various conditions that included rheumatoid arthritis. She explained that the underlying structure of connective tissue is changed with the help of the extended/sustained pressure (more than three minutes – usually for 5 minutes) applied in targeted locations on the body during myofascial release therapy, and that this corrects the structural changes that were contributing to pain. She stated that blood flow is stimulated by the effectiveness of myofascial release, which prompts the natural anti-inflammatory actions of the body to heal itself. 

Finding the Right Myofascial Release Physical Therapist  

So you can get the best massage treatment and healing for you, try these strategies:

Check the Professional Associations. The Associated Bodywork Massage Professionals and the American Massage Therapy Association are able to provide you with the names and addresses of professionals they recommend in your area, as well as their credentials and qualifications. You can find out if a massage therapist is certified by contacting the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

Look for a Therapist with Experience Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain. “A massage treatment therapist with complete understanding of the rheumatoid arthritis disease process is who you want,” Ozzie noted.

Be Clear and Upfront About Your Goals. Openly discuss with the therapist what you hope the therapist can achieve for you so you can successfully work together as a team. Ask for Referrals. Talk to your physical therapist, medical providers, or others who also have rheumatoid arthritis so they can recommend a great massage treatment therapist to you.

When You Show Up For Your Massage Treatment

Be Detailed When Explaining Your Pain. Be specific about the pain that you feel, which are the joints that hurt you and how much and how frequently it is that they hurt you. For instance, even though it can be helpful to undergo moderate-pressure massaging, Aracelli warns that the swelling and pain could actually get worse when you apply high heat or deep pressure to actively-inflamed joints. So if during the massage you feel pain at any time, be sure to tell your therapist/masseuse right away. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Lots of Water. Dr. Oz explained that the water flow in your body is affected by any massage that has any degree of pressure and if you are well-hydrated it will be more effective. “Drinking half your weight in ounces of water is recommended by Southwest Myofascial Release,” he said. So aim for 80 ounces of water daily if you weigh 160 pounds, and you will avoid dehydration.

Self-Massage With RA With These Do-It-Yourself Pointers and Tips

Movement can improve and pain relieved with the help of self-massage, whether it is between massage therapy sessions that it is done or alone, says Bob McAtee, CSCS, licensed massage therapist and owner of Pro-Active Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who kindly offers the following suggestions:  

  • Light pressure is less effective than moderate (pressure). Notwithstanding, you must never push too deep. If it feels painful to you, then be easy (lighten up) or simply stop, because you do not want to irritate inflamed joints.
  •  Rather than short pinpoint pressure, use longer strokes. Your aim is to get the whole area warmed up and the tissue mobilized, as opposed to giving certain joints specific pressure.
  • At the end of the self-massage it can be helpful when needed, if, after the tissue is warmed up, you apply just a little direct moderate pressure. As long as it isn’t painful, do only 15 to 30 seconds at a time on a hot spot, At all times you should be comfortable.
  •  On any given spot at any given time, you should massage only for more than 5 to 10 minutes total.
  • Place one hand palm up on thigh and use your forearm to massage the palm if self-massage is difficult for you due to RA in your fingers and hands. Massage the back with your forearm after you flip your palm down. For other areas, a handheld portable massager can also be used by you.
  • Take topical analgesics and warm up the area gently with them. 
  • Generally, mornings are the best time to massage, when you are feeling stiff from waking up, and so are the evenings, as a comfortable sleep is encouraged by them (massages).

You May Also Like

Life: The Rules

Life: The Rules

By John Amaro, DC, FIACA  Life: The Rules You receive one body, which, should you wear it out, you would have nowhere else to live. You are expected to...

Life: The Rules

Life: The Rules

By John Amaro, DC, FIACA  Life: The Rules You receive one body, which, should you wear it out, you would have nowhere else to live. You are expected to...