1) Schedule Regular Appointments
In scientific tests to measure the efficiency of massage as a treatment for arthritis, regular treatments showed significant reductions in pain. Increased joint flexibility was also experienced by many participants in the study. Waiting until your pain increases to an intolerable level before going for a massage, will not produce anywhere near the same results as making regularly scheduled visits.
2) Try Different Methods
There are dozens of different massage techniques available. Most techniques have the potential of working well with arthritis. The licensed massage therapist will carefully control how much pressure they exert directly on the affected joints to alleviate tension and reduce pain without creating long-term soreness. Discussing your needs with your licensed massage therapist will allow them to customize the treatment for you. Some of the best massage techniques for treating arthritis pain include:
- Swedish massage
- Myofascial release
- Trigger point therapy
Should pain reach a high in the middle of the night or when you're first getting out of bed, you can't always make an immediate appointment to help alleviate it. Grabbing a flexible gel cold pack out of the freezer or turning on an electric heating pad can reduce immediate pain levels while you arrange for other treatments. Rheumatoid arthritis often responds best to cold when inflamed, but some patients can only handle heat. Heat is best for stiff joints, while cold packs—when applied immediately after you know you've overused an affected joint—can prevent pain from flaring up.
4) Avoid Deep Tissue Stimulation
There are a few massage techniques that do conflict with arthritis. Most arthritis patients don't respond well to long periods of deep tissue stimulation since it leaves you sore and achy for the following day or two. Gentle and surface level massage is better for people with joint
pain and limited motion. Active forms of massage that include poses and stretches, such as Thai massage and Rolfing, can leave you a little sore afterward, too. Take it easy when adding more intense or new forms of massage to your routine. First check to see how your arthritis responds.
5) Learn Self-Massage Techniques
Finally, request that your massage therapist demonstrates simple, self-massage techniques anyone can use to reduce pain. A combination of mild stretches and self-guided muscle release steps will have an immediate and very positive impact. You can customize the treatments to fit your needs and limitations, such as using rollers and massage tools when your reach is restricted.
It may take a few regular massage appointments to experience results, but the pain relief should last for a good while after treatments—and don't forget to ask your massage therapist for other tips that might assist in addressing symptoms between appointments.