If you suffer from the pain, swelling or stiffness of arthritis, you are not alone. Millions suffer from this disease, which literally means "joint inflammation." Even though there is no known cure for arthritis, certain measures can slow down the process and help you live more comfortably. Therapeutic massage is one of these measures.
What is arthritis?
Though the term arthritis covers over 100 conditions, the overwhelming majority of arthritis cases take one of two forms: osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degeneration of the cartilage that cushions joints. Often the result of years of normal wear, advanced osteoarthritis can result in bone grinding against bone. The major symptoms are pain, stiffness in the joints, inflammation and swelling.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune disorder. It usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body, for example both knees. It causes pain, swelling and stiffness. Rheumitoid arthritis damages cartilage and bone, and over time may cause deformity. During flare-ups you may experience flu-like symptoms. Periods of intense flare-ups may alternate with days of minimal discomfort.
Why therapeutic massage?
Therapeutic massage can help manage the discomforts of arthritis in a number of ways.
Pain relief. Massage can reduce the devastating grip of arthritic pain by helping you refocus attention on the pleasant sensation of nurturing touch. Massage also directly addresses muscles and their connective tissue coverings, called fascia, that can painfully contract around arthritic joints. Massage gently coaxes your tissues to relax and lengthen, helping you enjoy greater comfort in the hours and days following your massage.
Reduced swelling and improved joint health. When tension is relieved, circulation improves. This cleanses tissues of irritating by-products from arthritic inflammation and improves nutrition to tissues. Swelling often lessens as excess fluid enters the circulatory system where it can be eliminated. With regular massage, natural joint lubrication is also likely to improve.
Improved mobility. Massage relaxes muscles and increases the pliability of fascia, both of which can limit your movement. This helps increase both comfort and range of motion in your daily activities.
Support for exercise. Research indicates that moving and exercising appropriately can slow the degenerative process of arthritis, both in the joints themselves and in muscles which can atrophy with disuse. Because massage can reduce muscle pain and improve joint mobility, you may find it easier and less painful to stretch and exercise appropriately.
Meeting your individual needs
Depending on your condition on a given day, I will draw from a variety of hands-on and other techniques such as gently stretching or warm and cool applications, I will be delighted to explain my approach.
Additional approaches that provide relief to many arthritis sufferers are appropriate exercise, good nutrition, heat and cold therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, frequent rest and stress management. I will work with your family physician or rheumatologist to create the best program to manage your arthritis.