Did you know that massage therapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms and reduce pain of arthritis?
The benefits of massage vary on an individual level, depending on a person's condition. Generally speaking, research has shown that massage therapy can help reduce swelling, improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, alleviate pain, and improve flexibility.
Is massage suitable for you?
To ensure remedial massage therapy is an appropriate treatment option for you, talk to your GP and find out how massage can complement your arthritis management plan.
Remedial massage therapy treatment goals for people with arthritis generally focus on decreasing pressure or tension on joints, decreasing pain, increasing range of motion, increasing circulation and promoting relaxation.
What type of massage is not suitable for people with arthritis?
People with rheumatoid arthritis should avoid any massage therapy during flare ups of their disease, when their joints are inflamed. Massage techniques are not appropriate over acutely red, swollen or inflamed joints. Qualified and accredited massage therapists are trained to identify these conditions and adapt their treatment techniques based on an individual's needs.
What to tell your massage therapist prior to treatment
It is important that your therapist is aware of your diagnosed condition, as there are many forms of arthritis, each with its own particular needs for appropriate treatment. You'll need to advise them of your medical and paramedical treatments, general health status and your use of medications, vitamins and supplements. If you have allergies, also mention these. It can be helpful to bring current x-rays or scans to your first visit. In follow-up consultations, be sure to update your therapist about the effects of the previous treatment and of any changes to your condition. And, if you experience any discomfort during your treatment, let your massage therapist know.
Choosing a qualified massage therapist
Massage therapists may have different levels of training depending on the type of massage they practice. To be assured that your therapist has formal, accredited qualifications and adheres to a code of ethics, check that they are a member of the Australia Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT). When choosing a massage therapist, check that they are also experienced with working with arthritis.
Many health funds provide rebates for remedial massage therapy treatments in Australia if performed by members of the AAMT. To ensure you are covered, contact your health fund.
For further information and to find a qualified AAMT registered massage therapist in your area visit www.aamt.com.au or call 1300 138 872. Why not explore the benefits of massage this September 5-11 during Massage Therapy Week.
Question: Can you talk about the benefits of remedial massage for people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal pain?
Garry Lavis: Symptoms of arthritis include, inflammation, reduced joint range of motion with loss of muscle flexibility, muscular and joint pain, joint deformity and altered posture. Massage therapy aims to reduce the inflammation via effleurage and clearing techniques (lighter techniques). Range of motion and altered posture is restored via deeper techniques applied to the surrounding soft tissue of the joints. Deeper techniques include kneading and petrissage.
Massage therapy stimulates the release of the hormone endorphin which reduces pain. A complete treatment will include passive unloaded range of motion techniques applied the joints to increase range of motion and stimulate synovial fluid production (lubrication) within the joint. Decreasing the muscular tension around the joint may also reduce the compression on the degenerative or inflamed joint resulting in increased range of motion and altered pain. Some massage therapists also practice alternative therapies including aromatherapy, reflexology and acupressure to list a few which may be beneficial. It should be noted that massage therapy does not cure the arthritis but is beneficial in providing symptom relief.
Question: What should a patient typically expect from a remedial massage?
Garry Lavis: The initial consult will include a range of testing which will identify pain, a reduce range of motion or musculoskeletal deformities.
People suffering from arthritis can expect a legitimate paramedical treatment which respects the suffers modesty and level of pain. Treatments generally start with lighter techniques progressing to deeper techniques depending on the client's level of pain tolerance and the level of active inflammation within the joints and soft tissue. Self management techniques should also be reviewed with the client at the completion of the treatment. Thus treatments are individualised and condition specific.
Question: Is it important that a specific massage therapist is used for patients with arthritis?
Garry Lavis: Absolutely. Basically there are several different techniques of massage and each different technique is applied differently to achieve a different result. For instance you have a massage that clears inflammation and a massage called 'stripping' which increases the length of the muscle and by doing that you decrease the tension on the joint and that allows for greater pain-free movement.
Question: Is there any time someone with arthritis and musculoskeletal pain should not have a massage?
Garry Lavis: Yes, certainly in the acute stages after an immediate flair up. Often massages can be contraindicated after an episode because it can cause inflammation. I would suggest people wait 24-72 hours after an acute flair up.
Some deeper and stimulating or vigorous techniques are not appropriate particularly those techniques used in pre warm up sports massage. Massage techniques are not appropriate over acutely red, swollen or inflamed joints. Similarly massage is contra-indicated over weeping, broken, painful, blistered or infected skin. A qualified Massage therapist is taught what medical conditions are contra-indicated for this form of treatment.
Question: Can you talk about the benefits of remedial massage for everyone?
Garry Lavis: My main case load is tradesman. Everybody can benefit from massage especially because now we've a lot of repetitive strain and our way of life is a lot more sedentary than it used to be, with people sitting in offices for long periods of time. As a result of offices we have altered postures, weak muscles and even inhibited muscles that are turned off. Remedial massage restores mobility and circulation and can help stimulate muscles which improves our posture.
Question: When meeting with a massage therapist for the first time, what important information should you provide?
Garry Lavis: Definitely histories, including how long you have known you have had arthritis for. It is also handy to bring any previous investigations such as x-rays or scans; these should be provided at the initial consultation. Also, it is important to advise the massage therapist of any other illness, allergies or sickness you may have. Providing history of any previous breaks or fractures is also important. History from a doctor is very beneficial, if possible.
In follow-up consultations clients should report on the effects of the previous treatment and if there has been a change in the condition.
Interview by Brooke Hunter