Should massage be ‘first line’ therapy for knee pain?

If you or someone close to you has run into knee pain with arthritis, you know all about the suggested remedies.  Knee pain affects more than 27 million Americans.

As we live longer, obesity, lack of exercise and chronic inflammation accelerate the issue. Some say osteoarthritis will double in the next 10 years. Annual medical costs are over $180 billion.

Now Dr. Patrick Massey, M.D., Ph.D., medical director for complementary and alternative medicine for the Alexian Brothers Health System is asking, “Can an age-old therapy reduce the pain associated with arthritis of the knee better than the usual medical care?”  Massey maintains medical treatments could use some help.

Typical treatment for  osteoarthritis is anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, rest, heat, ice and limited activity. But the bulk of the medical therapy is anti-inflammatory medication that can have significant side effects or even be fatal. Backing up his view, Massey said, “Each year, an estimated 100,000 Americans are hospitalized and between 15,000 and 20,000 die each year from ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding linked to NSAID use, even at the correct dose. Treating the side effects of NSAID medication exceeds $4 billion per year.”

Massage research studies have been few and far between, but this pilot massage study by Dr. Adam Perlman shows what massage can do.

Dr. Perlman, head of the integrative medicine program at Duke’s medical school, enrolled 125 patients with stable osteoarthritis of the knee. They were put into four different Swedish massage protocols and one control group that continued the usual medical care.

The study ranged from 30 minutes of massage for 8 weeks to 60 minutes of massage biweekly for 4 weeks followed by 60 minutes a week for 4 weeks.

Sixty minutes of massage, once or twice per week for eight weeks, produced the best results. But all of the massage groups showed better results than the usual medical treatment.

Massage delivers long lasting results, reducing pain and improving function.

In all massage groups the results lasted for at least eight weeks beyond the massages. For the 60-minute massage group, the benefits lasted 16 weeks after the massages.

Massey says, “This study demonstrated that, for osteoarthritis of the knee, a simple, nontoxic procedure is better than the usual medical care. In addition, the lack of side effects makes massage more attractive than the usual medical care. It should be a “first line” therapy.”

If you, or someone in your family, faces arthritic knee pain, the first step should always be to review your options with your doctor and  watch for more developments in massage research.





This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Expert Massage Therapy. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

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