The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, occurs when the cartilage of an affected joint begins to degrade. Swelling, pain and limited range of motion can all be side effects of this degenerative condition, which affects more than 30 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Massage therapy shows great promise for the treatment of osteoarthritis, but breakthrough pain and other symptoms can cause difficulties for patients between appointments. Fortunately, self-massage techniques can help to minimize symptoms associated with degenerative arthritis.
The Role of Massage Therapy in the Management of arthritis
While a pampering massage may seem like a luxury reserved for visits to a swanky day spa, it's a valid and effective form of treatment for a wide range of maladies. When it comes to osteoarthritis, it can be a crucial part of symptom management.
Treatment for osteoarthritis typically consists of pharmaceutical intervention and, in severe cases, surgical procedures. These treatments provide limited benefits and come with a host of unpleasant side-effects, not least of which is a dependency on prescription pain medication for daily function. For many patients, reliance on pills and surgery that only provide minimal relief is simply not ideal. Fortunately, massage therapy can address symptoms like swelling, stiffness and pain in ways that do not require additional medication or invasive procedures.
Because osteoarthritis is rarely associated with active inflammation, massage can be safely applied with minimal risk of secondary tissue damage. Typical protocol for arthritic treatment is a weekly one-hour session, which can provide tremendous relief by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol while boosting serotonin levels. What should patients do when pain and stiffness flare up between appointments, though?
Self-massage is an instinctual form of treatment practiced by humans and other animals throughout history. When you feel pain, your natural instinct is to rub or otherwise manipulate the affected area. Learning how to apply self-massage techniques properly can be an incredibly effective way of soothing pain and minimizing other osteoarthritis symptoms.
How to Perform Self-Massage Effectively
While rubbing a sore area of your own body is almost a reflexive action, it is important to realize some methods are more effective than others. Since self-massage can extend the benefits of professional massage therapy between sessions, it's wise to ask your massage therapist for specific techniques that address your unique needs. Depending on the area affected, you may have better results by targeting pressure points, applying heat or using certain strokes.
Together with a licensed massage therapist, you can find relief from the pain, swelling, and stiffness of osteoarthritis that doesn't include additional prescriptions or invasive treatment. If you’ve never worked with a massage therapist before, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about the benefits of massage for your condition. Because it’s a non-invasive and low-risk treatment with high potential for relief, massage therapy and routine self-massage between sessions can help you get back to your daily life with fewer interruptions and better mobility.
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