Does massage help arthritis


Choosing a qualified massage therapist

Massage therapists may have different levels of training depending on the type of massage they practice. To be assured that your therapist has formal, accredited qualifications and adheres to a code of ethics, check that they are a member of Massage & Myotherapy Australia or equivalent organisation.When choosing a massage therapist, check that they are also experienced with working with arthritis.

There are two main types of massage therapists in Australia: massage therapists and remedial massage therapists. Remedial massage therapists hold additional educational qualifications and may be able to provide health fund rebates from private health funds (although a qualified massage therapist may also be able to provide some health fund rebates).

Working with your massage therapist

When attending a massage therapy session, be sure to discuss your needs with the therapist and ask them what treatment is best suited to your condition.

Massage therapy should be conducted in a secure and private area where you have the ability to undress and dress in private. The therapist should not be present at this stage and you will be asked to lie on the table and cover yourself with the appropriate towel or cover. It is normal practice for undergarments to be worn. During the massage, towels or coverings should be used to cover any part of the body not directly receiving treatment.

If you are uncomfortable or unsure at any stage of the massage, be sure to tell the therapist. You have the right to ask the therapist to stop any treatment immediately and decide whether you want to continue with the massage.

Remember, if you experience any discomfort during your treatment, let your massage therapist know. Your massage therapist should also inform you of any effects you might notice following the treatment, such as mild pain, headache or bruising as this can be a normal post-treatment outcome.

What you need to tell your massage therapist prior to your treatment:

It is important that your massage therapist is aware of your diagnosed condition, as there are many forms of arthritis, each with their own treatment needs and precautions. You should advise them of your medical treatments and other medical conditions.

In follow-up consultations, be sure to update your therapist about the effects of the previous treatment and of any changes to your condition.

Does my health fund cover massage therapy?

Many health funds provide rebates for remedial massage therapy treatments in Australia if performed by members of the Massage & Myotherapy Australia or equivalent organisation. To ensure you are covered, contact your health fund and check with your therapist when making your appointment.

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ARTHRITIS OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ARTHRITIS AND SUPPORT SERVICES. To find a qualified Massage & Myotherapy Australia registered massage therapist in your area visit au or call 1300 138 872.

4 Massages That Ease Arthritis Pain

Many people view massage as a luxury or indulgence, but when you have an arthritic condition like ankylosing spondylitis, it could mean the difference between soreness and satisfaction.

While there are many medications available to treat ankylosing spondylitis, which is arthritis caused by inflammation of the joints in the spine, some people find that massage is a good addition to their ankylosing spondylitis treatment. The gentle kneading of a massage session can help relax muscles that have become sore and stiff because of the inflexible “bamboo spine” that’s common with the condition.

RELATED: 9 Yoga Poses for Arthritis Relief

“Muscles work by taking joints through a range of motion,” says Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and director of spine service at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. “When two bones are fused together, there’s no longer motion there, so the muscles get tight and can be a source of pain. If you can relieve that stiffness, that’s good.”

Most medical professionals prefer to treat ankylosing spondylitis through non-surgical means, Dr. Goldstein adds, and massage can help accomplish that. Massage may also work by reducing inflammation — a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found that massage therapy reduces the activity of inflammatory substances in the body, which could have a pain-relieving effect.

Plus, massage feels good, and visiting a spa or massage studio is simply a relaxing experience, especially when compared to the tense, sometimes harsh atmosphere of a doctor’s office. “When someone’s in a pain cycle, something calming and soothing can be very effective,” says Sara Daly, PT, a physical therapist and massage therapist who owns Waterfalls Day Spa in Middlebury, Vermont.

4 Massages for Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain Relief

If you’re ready to try massage therapy for ankylosing spondylitis pain, you’ll find that there are many forms available. Here are a few that you may want to try:

1. Swedish. This is the most popular type, and it can be a good ankylosing spondylitis massage. It uses long strokes, circular movements and kneading to loosen tight muscles. Pressure can range from very light to deep, depending on the client’s preference. “You’re really trying to get blood circulation going in the muscles,” says Rachel Simon, PT, a massage therapist.

2. Shiatsu. In this form of massage, the practitioner massages specific spots that are said to relieve pain elsewhere in the body. The areas massaged will depend on what type of pain you’re having. Practitioners may also lightly stretch your limbs. Proponents of shiatsu say that it helps to balance the flow of qi, which traditional Chinese medicine says is the life force present in all living things.

3. Lymphatic massage. Also known as lymphatic drainage massage or a “detox massage,” this kind of massage uses light, patterned strokes to help excess lymphatic fluid drain into the bloodstream. “That type of massage is very good for people with arthritis, because they sometimes have a lot of excess fluid from the inflammatory process that’s been occurring,” Daly says.

4. Petrissage. If you opt for this massage technique, your therapist will gently lift your skin and knead or roll it. This can help lengthen the tissues that connect to your muscles, enabling them to relax a little. “Different muscle groups work in conjunction together and attach to the skin layer,” Simon says. “Adding a little stretch and pliability can cause greater relief from discomfort.”

Another great option is to request a customized massage. Many day spas and massage studios have preset menus of massage choices, but don’t be afraid to ask your therapist for a treatment that’s designed especially for your aches and pains. If your therapist isn’t familiar with ankylosing spondylitis, explain your symptoms, and that you’re interested in a massage that will help reduce inflammation.

“If you ask for a personalized massage, I’m going to have a long conversation with you and make sure you get what you are looking for,” Daly advised.

Massage for Arthritis

I’ve recently been diagnosed with arthritis in my back and neck, and the pain of flare-ups can be excruciating. Soreness often lingers for days after I have a flare-up, causing a lot of stress and anxiety. In addition to the soreness, I find that my back and neck are often stiff, which makes it difficult for me to get a good night’s sleep. I know massage promotes relaxation, but apart from that, are there any massage techniques that could help ease my arthritis pain?

Pain from arthritis in your back and neck can be debilitating, and seriously interfere with your usual daily activities. The good news is that regular massage therapy may not only ease your soreness and general tension, it can also reduce your overall symptoms of arthritis over time. Regular massage therapy may even reduce the number and frequency of flare-ups. This can happen because massage can stimulate your body to release its own endorphins that block the pain signal, according to the University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic.

The Arthritis Foundation points to research done at the University of Miami School of Medicine that showed weekly massages coupled with daily massages significantly reduced arthritis-related pain and increased the range of motion in patients’ necks. Further studies have demonstrated improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion, and overall function of joints with regular massage therapy.

Even if you don’t see a significant reduction in your arthritis pain, you can still benefit from regular massage therapy. Massage treatment reduces tension, improves circulation, and can loosen stiff joints to give you increased mobility. You may also have decreased soreness and find it easier to get a full night’s rest.

You don’t have to disrupt your schedule to have regular sessions with a licensed massage therapist. Schedule your sessions at a place and time that works for you – you can even have the therapist come to your home for maximum privacy and comfort. Tell your massage therapist about your arthritis, and if you’ve had any flare-ups recently. Start with a more gentle Swedish massage. If you see results, you may want to progress to deep tissue massage for more targeted therapy of your back and neck.

Plan massage sessions once a week or once every other week. In between sessions, there are basic ways you can massage your neck on your own to maximize the benefits of the treatment. Ask your massage therapist for techniques you can practice on your own, or talk to your doctor about using massage therapy to help treat your arthritis.

Western Journal of Medicine: “Massage therapies”
You Might Be Interested In These, As Well:
Lower back pain making it difficult to get out of bed? Learn what we recommend as the best massage for lower back pain.
Is your back full of knots? Release tight back muscles with this massage.

Applying Heat vs. Cold to an Arthritic Joint

An inexpensive and easy way to treat arthritis-related aches and pains is by applying heat or cold to the affected joints. However, people are often confused about when to use heat therapy and when to use cold therapy.


Using heat and/or cold therapies on an arthritic joint is a simple, inexpensive alternative treatment that can help to alleviate pain, stiffness and swelling. Read: Alternative Treatments

Heat can relax muscles and help lubricate joints. Heat therapy may be used to relieve muscle and joint stiffness, help warm up joints before activity, or ease a muscle spasm.

Learn more: When and Why to Apply Heat to an Arthritic Joint

Cold can reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain related to arthritis and activity. (It is also recommended to treat many acute injuries.)

Learn more: When and Why to Apply Cold to an Arthritic Joint

Alternating heat and cold. Some people alternate between heat and cold therapy. For example:

  • A patient may be encouraged to use heat therapy to warm up a joint(s) before physical therapy exercise and to use cold therapy after exercise.
  • A person can use heat therapy in the morning to loosen up an osteoarthritic knee and use cold therapy to reduce swelling a few hours later. This process can be repeated throughout the day.


In This Article:

Cold therapy is recommended for certain types of arthritis that cause painful inflammation flares, such as gout and pseudogout. People with other types of arthritis—including but not limited to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis—may benefit from both heat and cold therapy.

Learn more:

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment
  • Osteoarthritis Treatment
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Treatment


There are no universally accepted guidelines for when to use heat or cold therapy on osteoarthritic joints, and recommendations are mixed.1-6 People with osteoarthritis are advised to experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find what works best for them.7

Likewise, evidence shows that heat and cold therapies do not affect rheumatoid arthritis disease activity but can make some RA patients more comfortable.8,9

For many of us, getting a massage can seem like a luxury reserved for special occasions.
However, for those with hand pain (including pain associated with arthritis), regular hand massage has been proven to decrease anxiety, improve strength and reduce pain.

Research conducted at the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that a combination of hand massage from a therapist and self–hand massage is likely to be effective in the easing of hand pain caused by arthritis and other conditions. The study analyzed adults who received a massage on their affected hand(s) by a therapist once a week and also performed self- hand massage daily. Results showed that the combination of massages could possibly reduce hand pain up to 57 percent.

With results like that, it’s no wonder so many people have begun to understand the importance of making massage part of their everyday journey to better health. And while in the past, massage may have been seen as an infrequent luxury, businesses such as Massage Envy have established themselves around the idea of making massage accessible and convenient for everyone. For those with painful arthritis in their hands, coupling regular massage therapy with self-massage will have an even greater impact. Massage therapists are trained experts in addressing pain brought on by various physical conditions and their work can provide daily relief from the discomfort and lack of mobility brought on by arthritis.

Tips for Self-Hand Massage

While at home, there are a number of techniques that allow you to practice a hand massage on yourself in order to gain relief from arthritis pain.

One method of self-hand massage is called milking. You do this by gripping your fingers on the top of your forearm with your thumb on the underside. Applying moderate pressure, move your massaging hand from your wrist to your elbow and back again, slightly pulling your flesh between them.

This method can also be used on the hand by placing the thumb on the top of your hand at your wrist and your index finger at the bottom. Just like the arm, apply moderate pressure and pull to the end of each finger and your palm.

Other Benefits of Hand Massage

Aside from the obvious pain relief benefits demonstrated by the research out of the Touch Research Institute, psychological benefits, such as reduction in levels of depression and anxiety, are shown occur through regular massage.

Who knew that becoming a Champion of Yes would also mean being able to relax a bit?

Related Resources:

  • Making Your Massage Appointment: What to Know Before You Go
  • Self Massage Relieves Arthritis Pain and Stress
  • Types of Massage


Massage Envy and the Arthritis Foundation share a common understanding about the devastating effects of arthritis on the body and the potential for massage therapy to relieve and control certain symptoms. Massage Envy is a national sponsor of the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk to Cure Arthritis℠ and Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis events throughout the country.

Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Arthritis Foundation funds vital research and educational programs year-round.

Massage Envy joins the Arthritis Foundation in its mission and that’s why we host Healing Hands for Arthritis. A one day event where $10 from each one-hour massage or facial will be donated to the Arthritis Foundation. Together we can fight to end the pain!


Massage Envy is proud to be a national sponsor for the Arthritis Foundation’s two nationwide fundraising events: the Walk to Cure Arthritis℠ – the Foundation’s annual community fundraising 5K walk event and the Jingle Bell Run / Walk for Arthritis – the nation’s largest holiday themed 5K race. The funds raised support the organizations mission and research aimed at finding a cure for arthritis, America’s leading cause of disability. Take the first step today to support a great cause!

Everything You Need To Know About The Benefits of Massage For Arthritis

Dealing with another agonizing arthritis flare is the last thing you needed today. Aside from the pain, everything you do takes twice as long when your hands, wrists, knees, and other joints are staging a revolt. When you struggle with unrelenting inflammation on a daily basis, it’s difficult to know where to turn for help. Anti-inflammatories? Diet? Exercise? Lifestyle changes? The answer to that question is likely “all of the above,” but there may be a top choice for arthritis relief that you haven’t yet considered: professional therapeutic massage.

A highly trained massage therapist knows the right methods to use to get pain relief and reduce joint stiffness quickly for those with arthritis. First, let’s talk about how arthritis impacts the body, and then we’ll dig into the best way to treat arthritis with massage.

What is arthritis?

The joints of your body are places where two or more bones articulate with one another to enable greater range of motion. When you have arthritis, you’re experiencing inflammation within the joints of your body. Arthritis is a widespread disease, affecting about 54 million adults and 300,000 children and babies in the U.S. alone.

Many things can put you at risk for developing arthritis, including obesity, injuries, and genetics. We don’t understand exactly what drives the process, but scientists do know that the joints that we use the most often are typically the most affected, including the hands, feet, knees, and back.

There are over 100 types of arthritis and related inflammatory conditions. Arthritis treatment varies depending on the type of arthritis and the severity of symptoms. The most common ones can be broken down into two broad groups: overuse arthritis and autoimmune arthritis.

Overuse arthritis

The most common type of arthritis, overuse arthritis, is most common in the elderly. Because they’ve lived longer, they’ve used their joints for longer, leading to eventual joint damage. Obese individuals may also get this type of arthritis because of the increased weight bearing on their joints. Osteoarthritis is the poster child for overuse arthritis.

This is caused by rubbing away of the cartilage and general wear and tear on the joint structures. A dancer might get this in his or her knees, a tennis player might get this in his or her wrist. Osteoarthritis responds well to massage therapy.

Autoimmune arthritis

Immune system disorders lead to abnormally low activity or over activity of the immune system. Autoimmune disease is when the immune system is overly active, and the body attacks and damages its own healthy tissues. Some well-known examples of autoimmune diseases are Lupus, Celiac, Crohn’s disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an incurable autoimmune condition that is diagnosed by testing for rheumatoid factor in the blood.

There are a few other autoimmune types of arthritis including ankylosing spondyloarthritis, but RA is the most common one in this category. Most RA patients use medication to manage their condition, but complementary treatments including massage can also ease RA pain and improve mobility.

How Massage Helps Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

Studies show that deep tissue massage can help alleviate many painful conditions, including pain associated with osteoarthritis, neck and low back pain. But why exactly does massage work so well for easing arthritis pain?

According to Susan Bernstein, the former Vice President of the Arthritis Foundation, massage can reduce arthritis pain and symptoms by improving underlying conditions like sleeplessness and stress. Bernstein notes that “…massage can lower the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, and boost production of serotonin, which, in turn, can improve mood. Additionally, massage can lower production of the neurotransmitter substance P, often linked to pain, and improve sleep as a result.” So for example, a restful sleep as a result of a massage may decrease arthritis pain the following day.

When a person with arthritis has a flare, particularly if most of the pain at that time is in the muscles and tendons rather than directly in the joints, then massage can help. Rather than taking more anti-inflammatory medication, massage may be able to relieve some of the pain by receiving focused massage on the muscles that are compromised due to the constant pain.

For those with arthritis, it makes sense to go beyond just relaxation by requesting targeted massage on the muscles surrounding their most problematic joints. Focusing work on the hands, wrists, and other affected joints can ease the pain, increase flexibility, and increase grip strength, according to research.

Studies show that for arthritis sufferers, massage can also help increase their independence by allowing them to return to normal daily activities following regular massage. This translates to reduced depression and anxiety related to their chronic pain.

You should always do things that make your arthritis symptoms feel better, not worse. So once you find a massage therapist whose approach relieves your pain, stick with it to see continued results.

Be sure to look into using your HSA to pay for your massage sessions, as long as arthritis is a qualifying medical condition under your HSA guidelines.

Other Tricks To Reduce Arthritis Pain

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet isn’t just the latest healthy lifestyle trend. It’s actually a nutrition method practiced by some of the oldest holistic healing systems in the world, and it could be a helpful tool for your arthritis management.

Consistent movement practice is another proven natural therapy for arthritis. In one review of research on arthritis patients from around the globe, the majority of participants reported an improvement in pain after beginning a regular yoga practice. Interestingly, yoga can also decrease joint stiffness, so the more you move those difficult-to-move joints, the easier the movement becomes.

Image credit: Sarah Dorweiler

Tags: arthritis, benefits, body pain, chronic pain, joints, massage, massage therapy, medical, pain

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *