Massage Therapy Helps Relieve Pain for Osteoarthritis

Relax and Find Relief With Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an alternative treatment used to relieve pain. There are more than 80 types of massage therapy, in which massage therapists manipulate the muscles and soft tissues using varied techniques. If you are interested in exploring massage therapy as a possible treatment, discuss your plans with your doctor.

Woman receiving physical therapy
Dougal Waters / Digital Vision / Getty Images

About Massage Therapy

Massage therapists mostly use their hands and fingers, but some use their forearms, elbows, or even their feet to manipulate the patient's muscles and soft tissues. The amount of pressure used and the direction of movement is variable.

The goal of massage therapy is to relax muscles and soft tissues, increase blood and oxygen being delivered to the massaged area, warm the affected area, and relieve pain.

Some of the most well-known and popular types of massage include:

  • Swedish massage: The therapist focuses on using long strokes, kneading, and friction on the muscles. Joints are moved to promote flexibility.
  • Deep tissue massage: The therapist uses deep finger pressure focusing on muscles that are tight or knotted.
  • Trigger point massage: The therapist focuses pressure on myofascial trigger points and uses other strokes as well. Trigger points represent a source of radiating pain.
  • Shiatsu massage: The therapist applies rhythmic pressure with their fingers to body parts linked to vital energy, called Qi.

A massage therapy session usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes, though some sessions may be shorter or longer. Chronic pain patients are usually advised to complete a series of sessions.

Depending on the location of the muscles being massaged, you may sit in a chair for a chair massage or you may be asked to lie on a padded table. Typically, oil or powder are used to allow the therapists' hands to glide over your skin.

Certain precautions must be taken before getting massage therapy. Though there are few serious risks, there are certain individuals who should not get massage therapy. Unsuitable candidates for massage therapy include patients with deep vein thrombosis (blood clot), bleeding disorder or taking a blood-thinner, damaged blood vessels, osteoporosis, recent fracture, cancer, fever, open wounds, tumors, damaged nerves, or infection and inflammation in the area to be massaged could also be problematic. Additionally, anyone with recent surgery should not get a massage. If you have a skin condition (either infectious, like boils or warts, or non-infectious, like psoriasis) that could be aggravated by touch or pressure, massage may be contraindicated for you.

If you are pregnant, have cancer, have fragile skin, heart problems, dermatomyositis or a history of physical abuse, discuss massage therapy with your doctor before signing up.

A Word From Verywell

Researchers are still studying the effects of massage therapy on health conditions. It is clear though that massage therapy promotes relaxation while reducing stress.

Due to the popularity of massage therapy, it is imperative that you check out the credentials of your massage therapist. Physical therapists also are trained in massage therapy. Know your therapist! Ask questions that will ensure your safety.

Was this page helpful?