Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) disease. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can come and go, and each person with RA is affected differently. Some people have long periods of remission. Their rheumatoid arthritis is inactive, and they have few or no symptoms during this time. Other people might have near-constant rheumatoid arthritis symptoms for months at a stretch…
Various cultures have practiced massage for centuries, to promote relaxation, relieve tension, muscle aches, and pain. Massage therapy is highly beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis. Its repetitive and methodical approach is effective in loosening muscles and restoring flexibility. Studies have proven increased blood and lymph circulation, pain reduction, and enhanced mobility after undergoing massage therapy. A study conducted at Harvard University substantial improvement in function and mobility in the treatment group. By measuring grip strength before and after treatment, the scientists were able to determine the level of improvement.
The gentle circular motion of massage enhances oxygen flow, aids the transport of nutrients, and removes toxins from surrounding tissues of affected joints. During the inflammatory stage of arthritis, massage therapy is not recommended. Although, during remission, therapeutic massage can effectively prevent inflammation and manage symptoms.
What is the best massage technique for rheumatoid arthritis?
The benefits of massage affect people differently. There is no one type or method of massage best for everyone. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers can benefit from several different types of massage. The depth of the massage, amount of pressure, and style are unique to each massage.
Massage techniques are designed to correct or improve conditions and well-being. There are 100 or more different types of massage methods, and a few popular ones practiced in the U.S. are:
Swedish massage – A variety of strokes and pressure to improve blood flow to the heart. Enhances oxygen absorption in the body; removes toxins from tissues and muscles; stretches tendons and ligaments ensuring pliability. An enjoyable way to reduce stress.
Deep tissue massage –The goal of this technique is to reduce soreness deep within muscle tissue. Muscle stress can block nutrients and oxygen, causing toxic build-up resulting in inflammation. Deep tissue massage loosens muscle, stimulating the release of toxins. This will promote blood and oxygen circulation. Deep tissue massage is recommended for people with constant pain and who suffer from musculoskeletal disorders. It involves the superficial and deep layers of muscle.
Shiatsu – A Japanese technique involving gentle finger, hand, and palm pressure to specific areas of the body to relieve pain. These areas are the energy pathways or meridians and once opened, blood and oxygen flow increases.
Reflexology – Reflexologists use finger and thumb massage techniques to particular areas of the hands and feet. They believe “reflex points” exist in these areas which directly correlate to organs, systems, and glands of the body.
Myofascial release – A gentle and highly effective massage applied to the myofascial connective tissue to relieve pain and reestablish mobility. The fascia surrounds and connects to all structures of the body. In a relaxed state, it is pliable and able to move without restriction. Inflammatory responses, emotional or physical trauma and surgical procedures produce myofascial restrictions that do not show up on traditional tests ( myelograms, x-rays, CAT scans, etc.). The fascia then becomes restricted and tight, limiting mobility causing strain to other areas of the body.
The use of myofascial release techniques enhances strength, movement, and flexibility. Myofascial restrictions are accurately detected by the therapist, who applies adequate pressure to ease release of the fascia, resulting in pain elimination.
Aromatherapy – A massage technique, which utilizes essential oils, originating from plants. The oils are rubbed into the skin during massage to promote healing, boost flexibility, and reduce pain.
Arthritic joints are extremely sensitive to touch. In the beginning, a gentle massage technique should be used to apply reasonable amounts of pressure to joints and tissues without hurting the individual.