Beating the Pain of Arthritis

It’s a fact – massage therapy can help relieve pain. For massage therapists, this presents a wide field of opportunity to help clients who experience constant pain to have a better quality of daily life. One such population who experiences constant pain is those who live with arthritis, one of the most common diseases.

Arthritis attacks and can damage the joints, causing swelling, warmth, and redness. Arthritis can be chronic and/or acute.

Many suffers of arthritis suffer inadequate sleep due to pain. Massage has been shown to lower stress hormone production (which helps decrease pain) and to increase serotonin (which is a regulator of the sleep/wake cycle).

Tiffany Field, PhD, relates;  “Any type of full-body massage therapy that involves moderate pressure, including self-massage, should help relieve arthritis pain and ease tension . . .  moderate pressure is key, to stimulate the pressure receptors under the skin that convey signals to the brain to alleviate pain and release beneficial, stress-reducing neurochemicals.  We’ve found that light pressure in massage is arousing, not relaxing. With light pressure, the heart rate goes up, the blood pressure goes up. Moderate pressure stimulates relaxation, the heart rate goes down, blood pressure goes down.”

Deep pressure can be appropriate in certain situations, as it is “. . . designed to address severe tension or pain in the muscles and connective tissues.”

Listed below are some massage modalities that have proven helpful in relieving arthritis pain (some may be inappropriate for certain individuals, so it is important to do a thorough intake consultation):

  • Swedish Massage
  • Ayurvedic Massage
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Hot Stone Massage
  • Lomilomi Massage
  • Myofascial Release
  • Reflexology
  • Self-Massage
  • Shiatsu
  • Trigger Point Massage

Massage therapists can help educate their clients about regular sessions and self-massage, as it can help those who suffer chronically from arthritis to find relief between sessions.

A good self-massage technique for the shoulder/arm area is to use moderate pressure first on the top and then the underside of the arm from wrist to shoulder and back to the wrist using the following strokes:

  • Stroking – this follows the contours of the body with the focus going toward the heart.
  • Milking – cup fingers with thumb on the underside, pulling the flesh between them.
  • Friction– use circular movements with fingers.
  • Skin rolling– squeeze tissue between the fingers and the thumb, crawling fingers across skin.

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