Massage for Arthritis: Everything You Need To Know About the Benefits
David Weintraub, LMT and owner of Bodyworks DW, writes about the benefits of massage therapy for arthritis.
Arthritis is a scary word for most folks. It sounds like some kind of point of no return as we get older. Once we have it, the thinking goes, we just have to suffer with it. However, the reality is a lot more complex than that. The good news is that there are many ways to relieve the pain. Both at home, and with integrative medicine such as licensed massage therapy for arthritis. Getting massage therapy in New York for arthritis can be especially helpful. New York State has the highest education requirements for licensed massage therapy of any state. This includes hundreds of hours of training in medical massage.
What is Arthritis and how can Massage for Arthritis Help?
Any time that you see “itis” attached to a medical term it means “inflammation of.” Arth is short for arthron which is Latin for “joint.” Arthritis is simply a catch-all phrase referring to inflammation of a joint or joints.
There are several main types of arthritis...
Osteoarthritis is a degeneration of the structures inside of the joint: bones and cartilage. It is usually due to overusing a joint, ie a wear and tear injury. It develops over time, first with the larger cartilage between the bones breaking down. Eventually the cartilage that encases the bone wears down as well. Then the bones start grinding together. Symptoms range depending on the severity of the degeneration. This can include stiffness and achiness, all the way to sharp debilitating pain.
New Yorkers are especially prone to this type of arthritis. We are constantly pushing ourselves to work harder, exercise harder. New Yorkers spend most of our time walking around on concrete. We designed our advanced massage therapy in New York for you. We pound the pavement too...so we get you 🙂
According to arthritis.org, osteoarthritis responds especially well to medical massage therapy. Achiness and pain cause the body to “splint” (ie contract) the muscles around the joint. Splinting protects the joint. This reaction to pain is exactly what should happen with a bone break or sprained ankle. By keeping the injury from moving, splinting helps prevent further damage.
Sadly, this splinting reaction has the opposite effect with arthritis. The muscle contraction puts further pressure on the joints. And increases the grinding effect. Without treatment, your body goes into a downward spiral that gets worse over time. Pain causes more contraction, which causes more grinding, which causes more pain.
How Massage Therapy in New York Can Relieve Osteoarthritis Symptoms
An experienced New York City licensed massage therapist can use deep tissue medical massage to treat osteoarthritis. Deep massage opens up stiff muscles and interrupts the nervous system to stop the splinting. This helps take pressure off the arthritic joint. Decreasing pain allows the client to use the joint without triggering the splinting. Repeated massage sessions break the feedback loop. In many cases the joint stabilizes and avoids further degeneration. In other cases, the massage work can prolong the life of a joint before requiring surgery.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own joints. Your own body mistakes your joint tissues for foreign invaders. Doctors use bloodwork to test for RA. They treat rheumatoid arthritis with medication. RA does not generally respond well to deep tissue massage, unlike osteoarthritis. Deep tissue massage can often make the symptoms worse. And provide little to no relief.
However, lighter massage can be very effective in lowering symptoms. RA also responds well to energy work such as craniosacral therapy. In addition, movement work such as Tragger or Alexander techniques can be helpful. Our team of advanced massage therapists are trained in a wide range of modalities including these. We can customize all of your sessions to fit your exact needs.
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune disorder similar to rheumatoid arthritis in some symptoms but has some notable differences. Psoriatic arthritis is only just becoming commonly know. As I can attest....I was diagnosed with it 3 years ago. However, I'd only just started hearing about it 5 years ago, despite being a psoriasis sufferer for the last several decades. It is diagnosed through evaluation of a set of presenting symptoms and treated with medication.
PsA is now thought to show up in about 30% of people with psoriasis, and often people can have the arthritis component but not the skin symptoms.
Like RA, it can attack joint tissues causing chronic achy to acute pain. Unlike RA, it responds super well to deep tissue massage!
Gout is a build up of uric acid crystals in a joint. This often shows up in the big toes and/or feet. Symptoms will show up as intense pain in the affected joint, then by discomfort after. In addition, the joint may show swelling, stiffness, and/or redness.
A gout attack occurs when your body starts making more uric acid than your kidneys can process. It can be brought on by eating foods high in uric acid. And also by consuming too much alcohol. The initial attack can last from 3 to 10 days. Subsequent attacks may take months but eventually get closer and closer together. If left untreated it can cause permanent damage to joints and kidneys.
How Massage Therapy for Gout Can Relieve Arthritis Symptoms
Treatment of the underlying issue (too much uric acid) is accomplished through medication and diet changes. However, the symptoms in the joints respond very well to massage therapy for arthritis. This includes deep tissue work, movement training, and stretching. Getting the joints to move again helps to break up the uric acid build up and lower the arthritis inflammation. Once the underlying issue is treated, massage can keep the joints mobile and help prevent any future gout attacks.
Arthritis of All Types Responds to Complementary Therapies
In general, most types of arthritis will respond to a combination of lifestyle changes including switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise that keeps the joints moving but does not overdo their use, daily stretching, hydrotherapy (heat or cold), and of course, massage therapy. If you are in New York City, our team of advanced massage therapists have helped hundreds of clients find relief from all types of arthritis. We offer massage therapy in midtown and in the financial district. Come in and see how our customized massage therapy can set you on the road to less arthritis pain!