Being one of the most widespread auto-immune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic joint disease, which occurs due to the elicitation of a faulty immune response. As a result, the immune system fails to recognize self antigens from non-self antigens and mistakenly attacks the joints and the synovial membrane that covers and protects joints.
This causes inflammation, swelling, stiffness, joint pain and loss of flexibility of joints, thereby making it extremely difficult to carry out physical work and activity. Therefore, if left untreated, inflammation in the joints inevitably paves way to the complete destruction of bones, joints and muscles, due to the progressive nature of the disease. Due to its applicable methodology, massage therapy has been widely used to treat systemic disorders like rheumatoid arthritis to deal with the gradual progression of the disease that affects different joints in the body.
How is Massage Therapy Done?
The word massage originates from the Greek word, masso, which refers to touching, handling or kneading dough. Massage therapy involves manual manipulation of the connective tissue or muscles that connects the scaffold forming joints and bones, thereby enabling the body’s musculoskeletal structure to carry out physical movements with maximum ease.
Different strokes used for kneading the skin during massage therapy, helps in manipulating the muscular tissues and hence a complete body massage, taken on a regular basis can help you get rid of the chronic joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
How Can Massage Therapy help Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients?
The use of massage therapy for relieving muscle tension and joint pains dates back to ancient times and is still considered one of the most effective ways of helping patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis to cope with symptoms like stiffness, swelling and joint aches.
Massage therapists are trained to methodically target certain areas in and around the affected joints for improving joint function, thus preventing joint pain from interfering with your day-to-day activities. In fact, the usage and benefits of massage therapy has been recognized by the Massage Therapy Foundation in 2007, as one of the most effective conventional and alternative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Positive Effects of Massage Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Restores Joint Flexibility
The destruction of the structure of joints and the subsequent accumulation of synovial fluid around the joints, leads to stiffness, swelling and soreness of the joints. Repetitive sessions of massage therapy help in promoting the flow of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints, thereby allowing the joints to move the bones, without producing any friction and pain.
This in turn, strengthens muscles and increases the range of motion of joints in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Myofascial release is a type of massage that targets the soft tissues surrounding the joints. It involves manual stretching of the connective tissue that establishes a link between the bones and the joints. This helps in strengthening the muscles and increases flexibility of arthritic joints.
Releases Muscle Tension
By using various strokes, massage therapists apply sufficient pressure to relive the tension trapped in muscles. Shiatsu massage is a Japanese technique, which utilizes the principle of acupuncture by using finger pressure to stimulate certain trigger points while massaging. This helps in loosening muscle traps or knots in different body parts that are responsible for causing joint pains.
Aids in Detoxification of the Body
Massage therapy uses long and slow strokes to apply continuous pressure, which in turn, has a great impact on deeper layers of muscles and the blood vessels that supply them with blood.
This encourages vasodilation or the dilation of blood vessels, which assists in the elimination of toxins and free radicals that serve as one of the major causative factors of prolonged inflammation of the joints. Consequently, this leads to a reduction in pain and swelling of arthritic joints.
Reduces Joint and Muscle Pain
Massage therapy provides an added benefit of improving the functionality of the immune system, thereby inhibiting the production of inflammation producing substances in the body. The reduction in inflammatory response significantly lowers joint and muscle pains in arthritic patients. A scientific study conducted recently showed an improvement in grip strength and reduction of pain in patients suffering from wrist arthritis.
Promotes Relaxation by Reducing Stress
Considered as one of the as one of the most beneficial therapy for promoting relaxation, massage techniques lead to the activation of parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates processes that occur when the body is at rest. Hence, lowering of blood pressure, heart beat and respiration rate are the primary factors for promoting tranquility of the mind.
Stress is one of the major triggers for the accumulation of toxins, which causes excess inflammation in the joints and deteriorates the functionality of the immune system and joints. Hence, the soothing effect that massages provides keeps the symptoms of stress and joint pains at bay.
Improves Blood Flow
Massaging is one of the most efficient ways of improving blood circulation, thus promoting the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids to the joints. The delivery of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the joints helps in decreasing the accumulation of toxins and inflammatory substances in and around the joints by the immune system. Hot stone massage is one of the most popular massaging techniques that uses heat as a means to improve blood flow. However, people suffering from cardiovascular diseases should avoid hot stone massage.
Besides an assortment of different manual techniques, massage applications also utilize mechanical aids to help arthritic patients in obtaining relief from inflammatory joint pain and discomfort. Considering the fact that no cure exists for rheumatoid arthritis and the existence of a myriad of side effects associated with allopathic drugs used for curing rheumatoid arthritis, massage therapy, a scientifically approved technique, has gained wide acceptance by the medical community for alleviating the symptoms of this debilitating disease.
Nevertheless, massage therapy should be used in conjunction with other medical treatments to better manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Many scientific studies have shown that conventional medications alone are not sufficient to mitigate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and hence adapting a multi-dimensional approach by using natural alternatives in combination with a healthy diet and regular physical activity has been proven successful in allowing many patients to lead a happier and a healthier life. However, it is recommended to seek medical advice from a professional medical practitioner, before making massage therapy a part of your treatment regimen, in order to prevent it from interfering with your medical treatments.
Photo Credit: http://www.pharmafile.com/news/172555/pfizer-s-ra-drug-course-approval