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Rheumatoid Arthritis, Massage Therapy & You

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Massage Therapy & You

Does massage therapy help provide relief for rheumatoid arthritis? This is a question that massage therapists get a lot. Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure, but it can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. It’s understandable, then, why people who suffer from this condition might seek alternative or supplemental forms of relief from the intense swelling that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause. If you have RA and are looking for relief in addition to your doctor-prescribed treatments, then massage therapy just might be the answer to your suffering.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Quick Facts

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes debilitating inflammation in the lining of the joints. On top of that, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack the tissues in your body. This can eventually lead to a wearing away of your bones and even joint deformity. Here are a few more quick facts about rheumatoid arthritis:

  • It affects all ages
  • It can be exhausting
  • It causes a lot of pain and stiffness which can be difficult to manage

As I mentioned above, there is no cure for RA, however its symptoms can be managed with medication, massage therapy, and certain forms of gentle exercise like walking, yoga, and water aerobics.

How Massage Therapy Can Help Rheumatoid Arthritis

My clients that have rheumatoid arthritis say that massage therapy is relaxing and relieves some of their pain and stiffness. The Arthritis Foundation even recommends massage therapy as a way to control RA flare ups and ease stiffness and pain. Why? Studies suggest that massage therapy’s ability to reduce cortisol levels and improve circulation helps reduce pain and anxiety as well as increase the range of motion of certain areas of the body.

I have found that, while massage therapy can provide relief from RA, people need to approach it with caution, especially with the level of pressure used and what areas should be massaged. If a client has a flare up of pain and inflammation, I avoid that area when massaging. Medium pressure seems to provide the most benefits, but each client is different and it may take a few sessions to get the pressure just right. Client feedback is very important during the session, as well as for a few days after the session. Be open and completely honest with your massage therapist about how you feel before, during, and after your session.

More importantly: massage therapy should never hurt. It should be a complement to your doctor prescribed-treatments. If you do feel pain, let your massage therapist know immediately.

Is Massage Therapy for You?

If you find that your rheumatoid arthritis flare ups are difficult to manage, then you might consider massage therapy! Be sure to consult your rheumatologist and/or physical therapist before trying it out, and to be open to sharing the specifics of your situation with your massage therapist, including what your goals for the session are. Do you or does someone you love have RA? Contact me today to discuss how massage therapy can provide you with the relief you need.

Suzanne Schaper

Suzanne Schaper is a Board Certified Massage Therapist in Overland Park, KS. She loves nothing more that sharing her knowledge for health and wellness with her clientele. "A life free of pain and disease is a more full life." Suzanne enjoys assisting her clients in their pursuit of health and happiness.

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