Whole-Body Massage: A Surprising Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis

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People with knee arthritis who had weekly whole-body massages for two months experienced significant easing of pain and improvement in mobility, according to a study led by researchers at Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina. Results of this study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, suggest that massage could be a safe, effective complement to standard osteoarthritis (OA) treatment.

First, the researchers randomly assigned 200 people with knee OA to one of three groups. One group had a one-hour Swedish massage every week for eight weeks; a second group received a light-touch Reiki treatment; and the third group continued with their usual arthritis treatment regimen. At the end of the two months, participants were randomized to have a massage or light-touch every other week, or no additional arthritis treatment for the remainder of the 52-week study period. Study participants’ pain, stiffness, and function — how well they were able to walk, climb stairs, stand up from sitting or lying down, or get out of a car, for example — were assessed every two months during the study.

At eight weeks, people in the first group who had weekly massages experienced less pain and stiffness and better functioning compared to those in the other two groups, according to the researchers. One caveat: They didn’t observe any additional improvement at 52 weeks, suggesting that the benefits of massage for OA may be short term.

Sourced from: Journal of General Internal Medicine