ARTHRITIS: Massage effective against pain and joint stiffness, The Boston Globe, Health and Science

Massage helps reduce pain and joint stiffness in osteoarthritis patients, a new study finds. As many as 21 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, which affects the hands, feet, spine, hip and knee joints. For the study, 68 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were enrolled: 34 were offered eight weeks of massage twice a week for the first four weeks and once a week for the next four weeks, and the rest were not. All participants continued with previously prescribed medications and treatments. After eight weeks, the pain, stiffness, and range of knee motion was assessed in both groups. Participants who had received massage reported less pain, joint stiffness, and improved mobility in the knees, whereas the control group reported no change in symptoms. From week nine to 16, the control group also received massage therapy and they reported a decrease in pain and stiffness as well. The first group was assessed again two months after discontinuing massage and reported still feeling its benefits, a finding that, according to senior researcher Dr. David Katz of the Yale School of Medicine, makes this study especially worthwhile because massage requires time and money and if it can be used less it becomes more affordable.
BOTTOM LINE: Massage can help arthritis patients cut back on their medications.
WHAT’S NEXT: The researchers want to study the extent to which massage can reduce medication use and to determine its cost-effectiveness as an alternative, or adjunct to, current drug treatments.
CAUTIONS: This is the first study of its kind, and larger and longer studies are required to confirm this finding and to assess how long massage benefits last.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Archives of Internal Medicine, Dec. 11.
SENA DESAI GOPAL

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