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Massage Therapy Shows Promise in Treating Knee Osteoarthritis

07 Jul 2014

06jun23b2a14One of the fastest-growing groups of massage therapy consumers is the aging baby boomer generation. Massage therapists are in a position to provide much-needed health care support for older clients with therapeutic bodywork tailored to their needs.  One very common issue for this age group is knee pain.As people age, they often begin to feel pain in their knees, which is commonly caused by osteoarthritis. Many treatments are available, but one study has demonstrated the value of massage therapy in addressing this condition.

What is Osteoarthritis?

This form of arthritis happens when the cushioning cartilage between the bones wears down, putting more stress on the joints themselves. As the knees are used and weight is put on the legs, more damage occurs, which leads to more pain. Because our joints are in continual use throughout our lives, this disorder is most common in older adults. If left untreated, it will lead to the need for medical intervention, and may lead to physical disability.

What Did the Massage Study Say?

The study demonstrating the value of massage on osteoarthritis involved 68 women averaging in age between 66 and 70 years. They were mostly white, and all from northern New Jersey, with x-rays verifying their diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis.

First, the patients were asked to rate their pain levels, stiffness, and how well their knees worked. They were then divided into two similar groups. One group embarked on a two-month course of Swedish massage treatment, while the other waited for their massage regimen. The first month, the group went in twice a week for hour-long sessions. The second month, they went in for weekly hour-long sessions. 

Once the patients received their eight weeks of regular massage treatments, they reported lower pain and stiffness levels. Along with the relief from those symptoms, they also experienced better knee function. This demonstrates the clear advantages massage has to offer osteoarthritis patients. In addition to health improvements, massage therapy has no known side effects.

While the report on this study demonstrates distinct promise in massage therapy treatment, it also mentions the need for further research into the effectiveness of this type of bodywork as well as investigating options to make it more available to the broader population.

Swedish massage is one of the post popular forms of massage in America.  Therapists who are trained at our Minneapolis massage school learn that this group of techniques includes long, soothing strokes, tapping and kneading. These movements are all geared towards manipulating the muscle closest to the skin’s surface.  Swedish massage training is offered in both our East-West Therapeutic Bodywork and Therapeutic Massage diploma programs.  For professional massage and shiatsu therapists who are interested in fine-tuning their skills to address the needs of an aging population, we are offering a three-session Special Populations workshop in Geriatric Care, beginning September 2, 2014.  Click here for more information; registrations are due by August 26th. 

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