Massage Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis

No one said getting old is all fun. After 40 or 50 or 60 years of walking, running, and playing sport, the knees start to wear down. Make no mistake, osteoarthritis is a serious condition. It limits what people can do, affects quality of life, and can lead to disability and lost days of work. Yes, there are medicines for it, but treatment isn'’t perfect. Patrick Russo is only 43 but from years of high school football, osteoarthritis of the knee has set in big time. “"I have a Dalmatian who has to be in the park every day, so with her it got to be a real hassle because walking just hurt",” says Patrick. "“I don’'t like to take drugs for pain or any of that stuff, so I tried to find something that would help alleviate the pain.”" Dr. Adam Perlman, of UMDNJ, says, “"We don’'t know how to cure it, and many of the treatments can have their own side effects such as irritation of the stomach from medications people might take, or other side effects of those medications.”" But maybe something as simple as a massage could be the answer for Patrick and the millions of Americans who suffer from knee osteoarthritis. According to new research in the archives of internal medicine, Swedish massage of the knee appears to provide lasting relief from osteoarthritis related pain, stiffness, and loss of physical function.

“When you look at the literature, there has been a number of studies that have looked at massage for neck pain or lower back pain, and many of those patients may have had osteoarthritis, but this was the first study that specifically targeted patients with osteoarthritis and in this case osteoarthritis in the knee,” says Dr. Perlman, the study author.

68 patients were studied. Half got massage, half didn'’t. “After the eight weeks of massage, patients had significantly improved from their base line and compared to the wait list control,” says Dr. Perlman. And even after the massage therapy was done. Two months later, the benefits persisted. Part of the benefit may come from attracting more blood to the knee, or it may make arthritic knees limber.

James Zazeski, a massage therapist at the Institute for Therapy of Massage, says, "Getting regular massage it actually loosens up a lot of the structure in the knee, they can walk much more freely, without pain, clients who are avid walkers, avid joggers, find that they can get back into what they love to do, so it really helps with their quality of life."

Dr. Perlman says this is not a replacement for conventional treatments, such as exercise and weight management, and even medication treatment, but it is another safe, and now proven to be effective treatment to help patients even further. Certainly, there are no medication side effects. "I think that a lot of people see massage therapy as a day at the spa, but this has helped me a lot and I am sure it would help others," says Patrick.


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