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Arthritis & Massage

Arthritis & Massage

Massage for Relief

Most arthritis sufferers may not think of massage when they start to explore which complementary therapies might ease their pain. Yet, while it is doubtful an arthritic joint can "heal" completely with massage, it can feel better. And for an arthritis sufferer, "better" is a welcome word, particularly when there are no side effects involved.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, more and more doctors are recommending massage to their arthritis patients to help relieve pain and stiffness.7 With more physicians becoming massage allies, those stricken with the disease may be more accepting of touch therapies.

Like many other chronic pain clients, arthritis sufferers may initially be apprehensive of touch. The last thing they want is to feel more pain or risk greater inflammation. That's why it's so important to fully understand arthritis clients and their conditions before beginning the work. And when you do get started, work slowly, gently, and with the utmost patience. Similar to many of your existing clients, those with arthritis need to feel a sense of trust before they're fully relaxed under your touch. Even then, the work will be challenging.

Massage therapist Chris Barrett from Weymouth, Nova Scotia, sees a lot of repetitive stress conditions in the work he does with clamdiggers and fishermen. When cases of osteoarthritis appear, he tells his clients he can't make it go away, but he can help nearby muscles relax, thereby reducing the pain.

When arthritis causes cartilage to deteriorate, Barrett says the surrounding muscles can become tight and act as a splint, thereby helping the joint function. Increasing circulation in and around the joint "increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, including amino acids, to rebuild tissue, as well as the removal of waste products," he says. "Passive range of motion can also help educate the body insofar as the laying down of new tissue."

From gentle stretching to vibration to friction, there are several ways to work with this type of client. However, a general caution is to avoid working directly on an actively inflamed joint.

Says Barrett, "Many of my clients who suffer from arthritis find that regular massage, which might be weekly for some and monthly for others, brings relief that lasts longer than medication and is less harmful to the body overall."

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