Massage helps ease knee arthritis pain, improves mobility

Short-term improvements in symptoms suggests massage could complement treatment.

Study Determines Optimal Dose of Massage for Osteoarthritis of the Knee Pain Research. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

Sarah Avery, Duke University Health December 13, 2018

Patients with arthritis in their knees experienced significant improvement in pain and mobility after undergoing a weekly, whole-body massage for two months, according to a study led by researchers at Duke Health.

The study, published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, suggests that massage could offer a safe and effective complement to the management of knee osteoarthritis, at least in the short term.

“Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability and affects more than 30 million people in America,” said lead author Adam Perlman MD, program director of the Leadership Program in Integrative Healthcare at Duke University School of Medicine. “Medications are available, but many patients experience adverse side effects, raising the need for alternatives. This study demonstrates that massage has potential to be one such option.”

Perlman and colleagues at four institutions enrolled approximately 200 patients with osteoarthritis in their knees. Patients were randomly divided into three groups: those who received a one-hour, weekly Swedish massage for eight weeks; those who received a light-touch control treatment; and those who received no extra care other than their usual regimen.

After eight weeks, each of the groups were again randomized to continue with massage or light-touch every other week, or to receive no treatment for the remainder of the study, which spanned 52 weeks.

Patients were assessed every two months using a standardized questionnaire called the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. The questionaire measures pain, stiffness and functional limitations, including how well patients can climb stairs, stand up from sitting or lying down, bend, walk or get out of a car, among other activities.

At eight weeks, massage significantly improved patients’ scores on the questionnaire compared to light-touch and usual care. Massage improved pain, stiffness, and physical function.

At 52 weeks, the twice-monthly massages maintained the improvements observed at eight weeks, but did not provide an additional benefit. There were no significant differences between the groups at 52 weeks.

“Massage therapy is one of the most popular complementary medicine interventions,” Perlman said. “At a time when people are looking for effective non-medication options for pain, this study provides further evidence that massage has a potential role, at least for those suffering with osteoarthritis.”

The study received funding the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (R01AT004623).

Source Duke University Health

Efficacy and Safety of Massage for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: a Randomized Clinical Trial, Perlman A, Fogerite SG, Glass O, Bechard E, Ali A, Njike VY, Pieper C, Dmitrieva NO, Luciano A, Rosenberger L, Keever T, Milak C, Finkelstein EA, Mahon G, Campanile G, Cotter A, Katz DL. J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Dec 12. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4763-5. [Epub ahead of print] Full Text

Massage Therapy and Quality of Life in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Qualitative Study, Ali A, Rosenberger L, Weiss TR, Milak C, Perlman AI, Pain Med. 2017 Jun 1;18(6):1168-1175. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw217. Full Text

Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial, Perlman AI, Ali A, Njike VY, Hom D, Davidi A, Gould-Fogerite S, Milak C, Katz DL. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030248. Epub 2012 Feb 8. Full Text

Also see
Study Determines Optimal Dose of Massage for Osteoarthritis of the Knee Pain Research in National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Weekly Full-Body Massage Improves Short-term Knee OA Pain in MedScape

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