As we get older, joint pain and stiffness are things that most of us decide we must live with forever. “It’s just a part of aging,” we say, not only to those who are young, eager and energetic - much like how we used to be – but also to ourselves. As adults, we come to terms with the onset of “inevitable” nagging aches and pains and feeling restricted. We give up on ever fighting back against reduced strength and limited range of motion. We settle for stiffness in our hands, knees and low backs, without ever thinking there is anything we can do about it; aside from trying to adhere to a good diet and exercise routine.
But the good news is that there is something more you can do about it: Massage Therapy!
Yes, the endless benefits of diet and exercise can have a huge impact on our aging bodies. We will not only feel better physically and emotionally, but a healthy lifestyle regimen also plays a key role in fighting against the development of conditions like Arthritis (those “aches and pains” we settle for). Whether it’s Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) or Osteoarthritis (OA), our lifestyle habits will play a part in how our bodies age! However, Massage Therapy can also be a big help, in such a relaxing and therapeutic way!
One benefit of Massage Therapy for anyone suffering from Arthritis is it makes it easier for us to start – and stick to – an exercise routine. For many of us, if there is pain before we even start exercising, we will falter before we can make any progress; and subsequently the cycle of not exercising contributes to less muscular integrity around the joints, which feeds into our pain. Seeking relief through Massage Therapy while you try and get active will help those aches and pains become less intense and decrease in frequency; in addition to improving your range of motion and muscle facilitation.
So…how does Massage Therapy help with different forms Arthritis’?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition affecting your joints, bones, and the connective tissue in between. OA is a symptom of worn-down bone tissue in an area of the body that is experiencing lots of use. It would be very rare to find any adult in an older age demographic without Osteoarthritis somewhere in the body. OA can also appear in joints because of muscle imbalance, which is where one muscle group surrounding a joint is in spasm, or stronger than another muscle group at the same joint. It also appears in joints that have suffered trauma. Massage therapy treats these muscle imbalances by relaxing hypertoned, strong muscles and adding mobility to those joints by adding flexibility to the tissue. It can also help identify exactly which muscles may be over-facilitated or under-facilitated so that you can excel at your strength program; by focusing on improving the strength of those weaker muscles at that joint.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease that attacks the thin membrane lining the joints, as opposed to specific joint wear-and-tear because of a specific activity. Massage Therapy used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis will have a similar impact on tissue as massage therapy used to treat Osteoarthritis. However, the real benefits for this pathology extend to having a large impact on the nervous system. Our body’s nervous system extends far beyond our bones, muscle and cartilage. There are cells that exist in our skin, the outer layer of our bones, deep within our fascia membranes, all the way to the dura mater of our spine and beyond. All these cells control the way our tissue responds to its environment. Massage helps to relax and de-stimulate our sympathetic nervous firing. This, in turn, increases our rest and digest system, allows our bodies to process and heal, improve circulation, decrease tension, and reduce or interrupt pain signals that RA tends to increase… much to our detriment.
According to Tiffany Field, PhD, director of Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, regular massage for all arthritis sufferers will improve their quality of life by helping to manage their pain and frequency of symptoms, increase range of motion in joints, grip strength, and overall function at the joints (arthritis.org). It was noted in another study by the same group that the types of massage didn’t matter, but that the benefits of regular massage lasted up to 6 months of regular maintenance. In another study conducted by Field, she noted that moderate pressure massage had the most profound effects on the nervous system. Moderate pressure was enough to avoid stimulating the patient, but deep enough to reach the receptors just under the skin that turn off the pain receptors to the brain. This subsequently interrupted the pain-tension cycle that arthritis patients normally experience.
These are just a few examples of some of the fantastic evidence showcasing the benefits of regular massage of clients with arthritis! Make sure you don’t continue to suffer and book in for a Massage appointment today.