The benefits of a good massage simply cannot be disputed. And when it comes to arthritis, massage is especially important, with evidence that it helps with pain relief and maintenance of joint mobility.
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is an umbrella term for over 100 medical conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system. It specifically targets the joints where bones meet, and causes pain, inflammation, stiffness and erosion to the bone cartilage over a period of years. Currently, 3.85 million Australians are affected by some form of arthritis, but this is expected to increase dramatically to seven million by 2050.
HOW CAN MASSAGE HELP ARTHRITIS?
With ‘massage’ being the manipulation of muscle and joint tissue using pressure, tension and motion, the process focuses on relaxing, easing and engaging the soft tissues of the body. It has been shown that massage decreases stress hormones, eases muscle tension, improves circulation, reduces swelling, helps the body produce pain-killing endorphins, and improves sleep and immune function. And for arthritis sufferers especially, massage may even have pain-relieving benefits, while also helping to improve the mobility of joints and muscles, albeit temporarily. In fact, a study out of the University of Miami School of Medicine has shown that ongoing massage can improve grip strength in the wrists of people suffering from arthritis. Additionally, massage may help a patient become less reliant on medications.
Importantly though, while it will help relieve the symptoms, it’s important to note that massage will not reduce the inflammation or joint damage that is caused by arthritis. Also, it’s important to remind your clients that one massage isn’t going to help much in the long-term. For massage to be effective, it’s important to have them regularly – for example, once a week for a few weeks to fully relieve the arthritis tension, and then once a month as maintenance.
DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES FOR MAXIMUM ARTHRITIC BENEFIT
There are several different massage techniques that will benefit arthritis sufferers.
- Relaxation and therapeutic massage:
- Relaxation massage uses long strokes, circular movements and kneading to loosen tight muscles and improve circulation. Of course, the pressure ranges from very light to deep, and this is completely dependent on each individual client’s preference and pain levels. Therapeutic massage helps the blood circulate through the muscles, releasing tension, releasing stress and encouraging relaxation.
- is a great way to learn about massage techniques that relax, rejuvenate and refresh.
- Remedial or deep tissue massage: Aiming to address injuries and chronic pain, remedial massage is excellent for people suffering from arthritis as it targets specific problem areas. It’s beneficial in that it works to temporarily relieve the symptoms, especially the constant pain that arthritis can cause. Deep tissue massage focuses on the top and deeper layers of muscle and tissue. It’s designed to address severe pain in the muscles and tissues. However, it’s imperative to be extremely careful with this type of massage, as it can cause lingering soreness, which is not ideal for people with arthritis.
- Lymphatic massage: Also known as a detox massage, a lymphatic massage uses light, patterned strokes to help drain fluid into the bloodstream. This especially works with arthritis patients, because it drains the excess fluid from the inflammatory points.
- Reflexology: Similar to Shiatsu, reflexology is an Asian practice based on the belief that pressure on areas of the body will help healing in other parts. For example, pressure on the big toe with help heal pain or injuries in the brain. While assisting with pain relief, reflexology is also designed to alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Shiatsu: In this form, specific spots in the body are massaged, with the intention being that the movement and pressure will actually relieve pain elsewhere. In Shiatsu massage, the practitioner focuses on the whole body, rather than pain in specific areas. It also involves some stretching. Generally, a client will go through the areas where they are most experiencing pain and the practitioner will adapt the technique to accommodate.
DISCUSS THE OPTIONS WITH YOUR CLIENT
When a client presents with arthritis, it’s imperative to discuss everything – from what their medical professional has said, right through to where exactly the worst pain is. It’s also crucial to gain an understanding of how soft or hard the pressure should be, and to discuss this throughout the appointment. Just because a massage is supposed to be relaxing, doesn’t mean the pressure shouldn’t be discussed. It’s also worth trying to gauge whether the pressure is too much by the person’s body language and movements.We also suggest that you make sure the patient has received their doctor’s approval for receiving a massage, as it’s always wise to tread with caution.
Additionally, it’s worth discussing what a client should and shouldn’t be doing following a massage. While regular maintenance is necessary, there are things people can do between appointments to help with arthritis pain, including self-massage. This is when clients massage their own joints at home every day, encouraging circulation, blood flow and more mobility in the muscles and joints. Consider enrolling in a Discover Massage Australia course to learn more about using the benefits of massage to help alleviate the pain experienced by arthritic people.
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