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Benefits of Massage Therapy for Arthritis

Arthritis is a broad category of conditions that lead to the degeneration of the joints in the body. It is estimated that approximately 20% of adults will develop arthritis. As people age the likelihood of developing arthritis increases. Those with arthritis can have a range of symptoms, from fairly mild joint stiffness to severe joint pain that can limit their ability to enjoy their favorite activities or even to live independently1.  

Massage therapy is one option for the treatment of arthritis that physicians are recommending because it is non-pharmaceutical and very safe. 


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and most typically affects hips, knees and fingers. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints wears down. This typically causes pain and stiffness within the joint2.

In several studies massage therapy has been shown to decrease pain and stiffness and increase people’s ability to do activities in people with osteoarthritis of the knee3,4. Massage therapy can also help people with osteoarthritis of the knee more effectively perform their regular activities of daily living, which can help improve their quality of life.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease where the body mistakenly attacks the joints in the body. The most commonly affected joints are the hands and feet. With rheumatoid arthritis joints tend to get red, swollen and painful. This can lead to loss of movement and joint deformity5.

Massage Therapy Can Help

Regular massage therapy treatments have been shown to help decrease the pain and increase the movement of affected joints. As a result of the decreased pain and increased movement people often show an increase in strength in the affected joints6


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1. Helmick, C. & Hootman, J. (2005). Projections of US prevalence of arthritis and associated activity limitations, Arthritis and Rheumatology vol 54 (1) 226-229 accessed

2. Damjanov, I. (2017). Pathology for the Health Professionals 5th ed. Elsevier Inc. p.441-442

3. Perlman, A., Fogerite, S.G., Glass, O. et al. Efficacy and Safety of Massage for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: a Randomized Clinical Trial. J GEN INTERN MED 34, 379–386 (2019).

4. Ali, A., Rosenberger, L., Weiss, T. R., Milak, C., & Perlman, A. I. (2017). Massage Therapy and Quality of Life in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Qualitative Study. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 18(6), 1168–1175 accessed

5. Damjanov, I. (2017). Pathology for the Health Professionals 5th ed. Elsevier Inc. p.442-443

6. Diego, M., Delgado, J. Field, T, Funk, C.  & Garcia, D. 2013. Rheumatoid arthritis in upper limbs benefits from moderate pressure massage therapy, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Vol19, (2),101-103. Accessed