Alternative Treatment: Massage Therapy

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • Massage therapy not only relaxes muscles and relieves stress, but it can help reduce pain, reduce blood pressure and boost the immune system. Massage has also been shown to reduce pain associated with several conditions such as fibromyalgia, lower back pain, migraines and arthritis.

    There are close to 100 different types of massage. Some of the most commonly performed types in the U.S. according to the American Massage Therapy Association and the University of Maryland are:


    • Swedish massage, which is the most common type of massage, to relax and energize the body.
    • Energy massage therapy, which is a non-manipulative massage to bring in energy while performing specific light hand moves over the whole body and/or affected areas
    • Deep tissue massage, which is often used for muscle damage from an injury, such as whiplash or back strain.
    • Sports massage, which is used to help prevent athletic injury, to keep the body flexible and to heal the body after injury.
    • Other common types include chair massage, hand or foot reflexology, myofascial release, craniosacral massage and aromatherapy massage.

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    While massage is not a cure for RA, it can ease the symptoms associated with inflammation, and help improve the quality of life of someone affected by arthritis. Massage techniques can also increase circulation, increase flexibility and mobility, decrease pain and inflammation from arthritis, relieve muscle aches and stiffness and give the recipient a sense of overall relaxation and wellness.

    In fact, a recent study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine has found that massage therapy is effective for reducing pain and increasing grip strength in patients with arthritis of the hand. The patients in this small study received massage therapy on the hand once per week over four weeks and were instructed in self-massage for the wrist and hand to be completed daily. Over that time, patients reported less pain and increased grip strength by the end of the study. They also had lower anxiety and depressed mood scores after the first and last sessions than the control group, who did not receive massage therapy.

    Have you tried massage therapy to reduce the pain of arthritis or to relieve stress? Post a comment or share your experiences on the message boards.

    Want to find more information about massage therapy? Try the American Massage Therapy Association, this consumer’s guide published online by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or the University of Maryland Medical Center, which has a nice introduction to massage on its website.
Published On: January 26, 2007