Massage therapy for arthritis

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an approach that some people use to treat their arthritis symptoms. The information below will help you understand more about this therapy, if it can help with your symptoms of arthritis, and how to find a provider.

What is massage therapy?

a woman receiving a massageThis treatment is a form of touch therapy that uses many different techniques and approaches to help alleviate pain, stess and anxiety. Each technique involves the manipulation of soft tissues, and touch. You can specify with your therapist if you prefer a light touch, moderate, or a deeper firm pressure. 

How does massage therapy work?

When used to help alleviate pain, massage therapy works by stimulating nerve endings in the surrounding tissue. The additional stimulation sends messages to the brain which compete against pain signals for attention, and alter how the brain interprets the pain signals. Massage can also help give a sense of relaxation, which can reduce muscle tension and stress, which also contributes to pain reduction.

Can massage therapy be used to treat arthritis symptoms?

A person receiving therapy in a massage chairWhile some people with arthritis report experiencing symptom relief from massage therapy, there is currently a lack of reliable evidence on the usefulness to improve arthritis symptoms.

Using massage therapy to address arthritis symptoms involves focusing on the impacted muscles and tissues with the intention of reducing pain and swelling, increasing joint mobility, and promoting relaxation and stress relief. Massage can also help improve mood and increase blood circulation through tissue movement, which can help increase circulation to the joints.

Massage is often a lower risk form of complementary therapy, however it is not appropriate for everyone. Always check with your healthcare team before adding a new form of therapy to your treatment plan.

Massage is not recommended when people are experiencing an arthritis flare or have hot, swollen or inflamed joints, as this could make symptoms worse. 

How do I find a provider?

A massage therapist giving a massage to a man on a massage tableIt is important to speak to your doctor or rheumatologist before trying any new treatment, to make sure that it is appropriate and safe for you.

When seeking a provider to complement to your arthritis treatment plan, be sure to use a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and let them know about your condition. If you have coverage for complementary therapies under a health insurance or benefits plan, these plans typically only cover services provided by a registered professional.