Swedish massage benefits osteoarthritis patients

December 11, 2006

New Haven, Conn. -- Massage therapy is a safe and effective way to reduce pain and improve function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers at the Yale Prevention Research Center and at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) report in the first clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of this treatment.

The 16-week study conducted to identify the potential benefits of Swedish massage on osteoarthritis patients with pain, stiffness and limited range of motion was published in the December 11 Archives of Internal Medicine. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that affects 21 million Americans and causes more physical limitation than lung disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 68 study participants, who were at least age 35 with x-rays confirming their diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee, were randomly assigned either to an intervention group that received massage therapy immediately, or to a wait-list control group that received massage after an initial eight-week delay. Both groups were encouraged to continue previously prescribed medications and treatments.

Participants in the massage intervention group received a standard one-hour Swedish massage twice a week for four weeks, followed by Swedish massage once a week for the next four weeks at the Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine at the Saint Barnabus Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, New Jersey. After the first eight weeks of massage therapy, participants had improved flexibility, less pain and improved range of motion.

The primary study outcomes were changes in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index pain and functional scores, as well as changes in the Visual Analog Scale assessment of pain. Measures of pain, stiffness, and functional ability were all significantly improved by the intervention as compared to the control group.

Those who only continued with their usual care without massage showed no changes in symptoms. During weeks nine through 16, they received the massage intervention and experienced benefits similar to those receiving the initial massage therapy. When reassessed eight weeks after completion of the massage intervention, the benefits of massage persisted and remained significant, although the magnitude of effect was somewhat reduced.

"Massage is free of any known side effects and according to our results, clearly shows therapeutic promise," said senior investigator of the study David L. Katz, M.D., associate adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at Yale School of Medicine and director of Yale's Prevention Research Center. "So-called 'alternative' treatments like massage are most important when conventional treatments are far from ideal. Currently available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often not well-tolerated by older adults with osteoarthritis. Cox-II inhibitors like Vioxx were developed as substitutes for traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, but pose highly-publicized toxicity problems of their own."

Katz conducted the study with Adam Perlman, M.D., executive director of the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions. The research was the result of a CDC grant to Katz at the Prevention Research Center at Yale. Perlman, who directed the study at UMDNJ, said the significant improvement in symptoms after eight weeks of massage persisted even after the study was completed.

"Our results suggest that massage therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment for osteoarthritis," said Perlman. "Ultimately, massage may be shown to lessen a patient's reliance on medications and decrease health care costs."

Perlman and Katz say that further study of the cost-effectiveness and the lasting impact of the intervention is warranted. They have begun collaborating on a follow-up study.

"Our hope is to show that this treatment is not only safe and effective, but cost-effective," said Perlman. "That could serve to change practice standards so that massage is a more common option for the many patients with osteoarthritis of the knee."
-end-
In addition to Katz and Perlman, other authors on the study included Alyse Sabina, Anna-leila Williams and Valentine Yanchou Njike, M.D., all of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

Citation: Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 166, No. 22 (December 11, 2006)

Yale University

Related Osteoarthritis Articles from Brightsurf:

Major savings possible with app-based osteoarthritis treatment
Osteoarthritis treatment conducted digitally via an app costs around 25% of what conventional care costs, according to a study from Lund University in Sweden published in the research journal PLOS ONE.

New approach to treating osteoarthritis advances
Injections of a natural 'energy' molecule prompted regrowth of almost half of the cartilage lost with aging in knees, a new study in rodents shows.

Bone drug may be beneficial for knee osteoarthritis
Bisphosphonates (a class of drugs that prevent the loss of bone density and used to treat osteoporosis and similar diseases) appear to be safe and beneficial for osteoarthritis patients.

Certain jobs linked to higher risk of knee osteoarthritis
Workers in jobs that typically involve heavy lifting, frequent climbing, prolonged kneeling, squatting, and standing face an increased risk of developing knee osteoarthritis.

App helps reduce osteoarthritis pain
By performing a few simple physical exercises daily, and receiving information about their disease regularly, 500 osteoarthritis patients were able to on average halve their pain in 6 months -- and improve their physical function.

Osteoarthritis can increase your risk for social isolation
In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined information from the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA) study.

High rates of opioid prescriptions for osteoarthritis
Opioids work against severe pain but the risks of side effects and addiction are high.

Disease burden in osteoarthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) has traditionally been viewed as a highly prevalent but milder condition when compared with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and some may believe that it is part of a normal aging process requiring acceptance, not treatment.

3D printing may help treat osteoarthritis
In a Journal of Orthopaedic Research study, scientists used 3D printing to repair bone in the joints of mini-pigs, an advance that may help to treat osteoarthritis in humans.

Finger joint enlargements may be linked to knee osteoarthritis
Heberden's nodes (HNs) are bony enlargements of the finger joints that are readily detectable in a routine physical exam and are considered hallmarks of osteoarthritis.

Read More: Osteoarthritis News and Osteoarthritis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.