Managing Arthritis Naturally: The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Arthritis

Our joints enable our bodies to move, from our fingers to our wrists and elbows to knees and toes. When your joints become inflamed or have pain, managing it can be frustrating, no matter where they are on the body. While joint pain can be caused by overuse and sports injuries such as tennis elbow, arthritis is the most common cause of pain in the joints.

Arthritis is a condition that creates inflammation in the joints. The two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Managing arthritis can be exhausting, and while massage therapy may not be top of mind for people with arthritis, the benefits may surprise you! Massage therapy delivered by Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) can help reduce inflammation and loosen up your muscles and joints. 

First, let’s look at the two most common types of arthritis, then explore the different massage therapies that can provide pain relief for both conditions. 

Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is Osteoarthritis?

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the bones wears down, usually with age. It can affect any joint but commonly happens in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Osteoarthritis is often associated with aging and is more prevalent in older adults.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining around the joints, also called the synovium. This leads to inflammation, pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis affects people of all ages, and it can also cause damage to other organs in the body.

What Are the Causes of Arthritis?

A number of factors can cause arthritis, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental influences. The specific cause of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis. Here are some common factors associated with different types of arthritis:

Osteoarthritis

  • Age – wear on the joints can lead to degeneration of cartilage.
  • Joint injury – previous injuries to the joint, such as fractures or ligament tears, can wear down the cartilage.
  • Weight – weight puts added stress on the joints (knees, hips, ankles), increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Genetics – there may be a genetic predisposition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Genetics – a family history of rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of developing the condition.
  • Environmental factors – smoking and certain infections may trigger the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in individuals with a genetic predisposition.

It’s important to note that while these factors may increase the risk of developing arthritis, not everyone with these risk factors will develop arthritis. The exact cause of many types of arthritis remains unclear, and research is ongoing to better understand the underlying causes.

Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis

The symptoms of arthritis will vary, depending on the type of disease and severity of the conditions. These symptoms can include: 

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness (morning or after periods of inactivity)
  • Redness and warmth around the joint
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Swelling around the affected joints
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (in some cases)

Arthritis treatment aims to relieve symptoms, improve joint function, and reduce the disease’s development. Your primary physician may recommend a range of treatment options, including massage therapy or red light therapy to help you manage your pain. 

How Does Massage Therapy Reduce Inflammation?

Massage therapy is known to reduce inflammation in the body through various mechanisms, including improving circulation and blood flow, stimulating lymphatic drainage, and reducing the release of stress hormones. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation. As a result, massage therapy is recognized as a beneficial adjunct treatment for inflammation-related conditions. 

Types of Massage Therapy for Arthritis Pain Relief

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Manual lymphatic drainage massage stimulates the lymphatic system, supporting the immune function, promoting removal of excess fluids and waste products from tissues, and reducing swelling. 

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy is a technique that focuses on particular areas of muscle tension, known as trigger points, in order to ease pain and discomfort. This therapy involves applying pressure to those points to release tension and promote relaxation. It is commonly used to target muscle knots, referred pain, and stiff joints.

Hot & Cold Stone Massage

Hot and cold stone massage uses hot and cold stones applied to the body to provide therapeutic benefits. The heat from the stones helps relax muscles and improve circulation, while cold stones can reduce inflammation and numb areas of pain.

Jade Stone Massage

Jade stone massage utilizes smooth, heated jade stones to massage the body. Jade is believed to have healing properties in traditional Chinese medicine, and the warmth of the stones helps relax muscles, improve circulation, and promote balance and harmony.

Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage is a general term encompassing various massage techniques tailored to address specific therapeutic goals, such as pain relief, stress reduction, injury rehabilitation, and overall wellness. It may include a combination of relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, and other modalities based on individual needs.

Manual Osteopathy

Manual osteopathy involves hands-on techniques to assess, and improve musculoskeletal issues and related conditions. Practitioners use gentle manipulations, stretching, and soft tissue techniques to restore mobility, alleviate pain, and improve the overall function of the body’s musculoskeletal system.

Infrared Sauna

An infrared sauna session can help alleviate arthritis pain with soothing heat that penetrates deeply into tissues, promoting relaxation of muscles and joints, which can reduce stiffness and discomfort associated with arthritis. The heat also stimulates blood circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to affected areas while facilitating the removal of toxins and inflammatory substances. 

Regular sessions of infrared sauna therapy can help contribute to improved joint mobility, reduced pain, and enhanced overall well-being for individuals with arthritis and can be added to any regular massage treatment appointment. 

Red Light Therapy 

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, has been gaining traction as a non-invasive and painless treatment for reducing inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. This therapy works by emitting wavelengths of red and near-infrared light, which penetrate deep into the tissues. These wavelengths stimulate cellular repair and increase circulation, leading to a reduction in inflammation and pain. By enhancing mitochondrial function in cells, red light therapy helps in accelerating the body’s natural healing processes. This can lead to significant improvements in joint mobility, reduction in swelling, and alleviation of chronic pain for individuals suffering from arthritis, making it a promising adjunctive therapy in the management of this condition.

Massage Treatments to Manage Arthritis Pain in St. Albert

Are you struggling to manage your arthritis pain and looking for natural solutions to compliment other treatments? Schedule your appointment for a massage at Urban Massage & Wellness in St. Albert. Our practitioners will help you schedule the massage treatment that’s right for your needs. 

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