Arthritis and Massage

Arthritis and Massage

If you suffer from the pain, swelling or stiffness of arthritis, you are not alone. Millions suffer from this disease which means literally 'joint inflammation' and is a general term for over 100 conditions. Arthritis can strike at any age and affects more women than men.Even though there is no known cure for arthritis, certain measures can slow down the process and help you live more comfortably. Therapeutic massage is one of these measures.

Osteoarthritis:  Osteoarthritis is degeneration of the cartilage that cushions and forms a slick surface for movement in affected joints. It is often the result of years of normal wear. In its advanced stages it can leave bone grinding against bone. The major symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, stiffness in the joints and inflammation and swelling following overuse.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:  Rheumatoid Arthritis ('RA') is an immune disorder which causes inflammation in the joint’s lining. Over time, it can damage cartilage, bone and other structures around the joints and may even cause deformity. RA usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body (i.e. both knees). Symptoms include pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints. During flare-ups you may experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, sweats or fatigue. Symptoms can vary from day to day, with periods of intense flare-ups alternating with days of minimal discomfort.

Why Get Therapeutic Massage?  Therapeutic massage can be a powerful ally in any program for managing your arthritis and maintaining as normal a life as possible. Massage is especially effective in addressing the most common side effects caused by painful and stiff joints: muscle tension and pain, poor circulation and limitations of normal movement and exercise.

Pain Relief: Massage can reduce the devastating grip of arthritic pain by helping you refocus attention on the pleasant sensation of nurturing touch. In addition, current research indicates that massage stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, which can give you a welcome break from the pain.

Reduced Muscle Tension: Muscles automatically tighten protectively around any painful area such as an arthritic joint. The resulting muscle tension limits your range of motion and can be a source of pain in itself. Therapeutic massage works directly with muscles to release tension and serves to calm the nervous system, allowing your muscles to relax further. As a result, you may experience less pain and better joint mobility.

Increased Circulation: Massage has been shown to increase circulation, cleaning the tissues of irritating and painful by-products of arthritic inflammation and improving nutrition to both muscles and joints. Swelling often lessens with massage as excess fluid is pushed into the circulatory system where it can be eliminated. You can enjoy increased joint mobility, reduced pain in the affected muscles and joints and, with regular massage, an improvement in your body’s natural joint lubrication.

Support for Exercise: Research indicates that maintaining mobility and exercising appropriately can slow the degenerative process of arthritis, both in the joints themselves and in muscles which can atrophy with disuse. Because massage can reduce discomfort in muscles around your joints and improve joint mobility, you may find it easier and less painful to stretch and exercise appropriately.

PRECAUTIONS:  As long as it feels comfortable, therapeutic massage is almost always helpful with a few precautions. Massage therapy should never cause you pain or discomfort and should stay within your tolerance level at all times. Extra caution is needed if you are on medication to suppress your symptoms, since this can interfere with your giving accurate feedback on pressure or tenderness. If you find you are fatigued or sore after a massage, shorter sessions may be more appropriate and useful for you.Extreme care should be taken during flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis, with no massage at all directly on your affected joints.

Stress Relief and Arthritis:  Pain and physical limitations can add greatly to the stress levels of anyone suffering from arthritis. Emotional stress can, in turn, increase your sensitivity to pain and drain your energy for dealing with your disease and the demands of a normal life.Therapeutic massage elicits the body’s 'relaxation response' resulting in a deep sense of calm. This can leave you feeling rested and optimistic, with more energy to face your daily life. The quality of restful sleep usually improves in the days following a massage, giving your body a chance to further repair and restore your energy levels. Massage for simple stress relief can play an especially positive role in managing RA. Research shows both that emotional stress can impair the body’s immune response and that regular massage therapy can improve immune system function. Since RA is an immune system disorder, regular massage therapy between flare-ups can make one less susceptible to acute episodes.

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