Often associated with aging, knee arthritis causes pain in many people. Knee osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in the knee joint wears away, causing the bones to rub together. As a result, the affected area may become inflamed, painful, and stiff, making it difficult for the person to move and perform daily tasks. Many treatment options are available for knee arthritis, but massage therapy has grown in popularity in recent years.
According to a 2016 research study, massage therapy can help with arthritis by reducing pain, increasing blood flow to the joints, improving the range of motion, boosting mood, and basically improving the quality of life.
In this article, we will discuss how massage can help people with knee arthritis and what types of massage techniques are best for this purpose.
Is massage therapy beneficial for knee arthritis?
There are several ways in which massage therapy can be helpful for treating knee arthritis. The first benefit of massage therapy is that it releases endorphins, natural painkillers produced by the body. Additionally, it can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the knee joint, which can cause pain.
As a second benefit, massage therapy will relieve muscle tension around the knee joint, thus improving the range of motion. With knee arthritis, it can be difficult to move the joint through its full range of motion.
Thirdly, massage therapy can increase circulation to the affected area, which promotes healing and reduces inflammation. Fourth, massage can relax stiff muscles and joints, allowing you to move easier.
Finally, massage therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can have positive effects on overall well-being, especially if you suffer from a chronic illness like arthritis in the knees.
What types of massage can be used for knee arthritis?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, when choosing a massage type for arthritis, moderate pressure is the key. By stimulating the pressure receptors under the skin, it releases neurochemicals that relieve pain and reduce stress. So any type of full body massage that involves moderate pressure, including self-massage should help relieve arthritis pain and ease tension.
Here are some types of massages that are beneficial for people suffering from knee arthritis:
- Swedish Massage – Most people associate the term “massage” with Swedish massage, and it is the most common type of massage. As a result of long, fluid strokes of muscles and tissues, Swedish massage reduces soreness and stiffness in joints, reduces anxiety, and improves circulation. Generally, oil or lotion is used by therapists and pressure is adjusted according to your sensitivity.
- Deep Tissue Massage – This massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue around the knee joint and requires focused and strong pressure. It can help reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and alleviate pain caused by arthritis. Some people with arthritis may experience soreness after deep tissue massage, so it may not be suitable for them.
- Myofascial Release – The purpose of myofascial release is to alleviate pain by manipulating the fascia, and connective tissues that surround muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. During myofascial release, a therapist gently rolls the back, legs, and other parts of the body back and forth to stretch and release those connective tissues. This technique can help release tension and improve mobility. In most cases, there is no need to use oils, lotions, or massage tools.
- Shiatsu Massage – The Japanese massage technique of Shiatsu is widely used in the United States. In Shiatsu massage, therapists use their fingers and palms to massage specific points on the body continuously and rhythmically to relieve pain and improve circulation. According to shiatsu, the body’s energy is restored through massage, similar to other Asian massage and healing practices. The body is usually completely clothed during Shiatsu, and there are no oils used.
- Trigger Point Therapy Massage – In pain management, trigger points refer to the places where the pain originates and where knots may form. Trigger point therapy massage is a type of massage wherein pressure or vibration is applied to myofascial trigger points in a trigger point massage. This technique involves applying pressure to specific points in the muscles around the knee joint that are sensitive to touch. It is done to alleviate pain in a particular area of the body and improve flexibility.
- Self-massage – Sometimes it is necessary to take matters into your own hands when time or finances don’t permit a professional massage. When and where you need it most, self-massage can provide immediate relief to painful areas. So even if you go to a professional therapist on a regular basis, self-massage can actually prolong the effects. A knee massage device can also be a great alternative that can help you to alleviate the pain caused by arthritis.
If you would like to try your hand at self-massage using a massage device, the Professional Knee Massager is designed with advanced technology to provide targeted relief to the knee joint. Heat and vibration therapy work together to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
Vibration therapy stimulates the nerves and tissues around the knee, providing a deep tissue massage that penetrates the affected area while heat therapy relaxes the muscles and joints around the knee. By combining heat and vibration, knee pain is relieved, swelling is reduced, and mobility is improved.
Which type of massage is most effective?
Different people may respond differently to different types of massages, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which type of massage is most effective for knee arthritis. Nonetheless, research suggests combining different massage techniques might be the most effective way to treat knee arthritis.
Researchers found that deep tissue massage, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy reduced pain and improved function in people with knee osteoarthritis in a systematic review published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. People with knee osteoarthritis benefitted from a combination of Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and range-of-motion exercises in another study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Depending on the recommendation of your healthcare professional, massage therapy can be used in combination with other treatments, such as exercise, medication, or physical therapy.