The Healing Touch: Exploring the Benefits of Massage Therapy for Arthritis Relief

massage therapy benefits for arthritis

Massage therapy has an endless number of applications, but one that many are not aware of is that it helps with the pain from arthritis. Massage therapy for arthritis relief is an effective and non-invasive way to ease pain, increase blood flow to the joints, and increase the range of motion in the joints. For many, massage therapy can make a huge difference in their everyday lives and mood.

Learn more about the different types of arthritis, which types of massage can be used for arthritis relief, what the benefits are, and how to become a licensed massage therapist.

Table of Contents

Understanding Arthritis

Not all arthritis is the same. There are many different types of arthritis that have different symptoms and causes.

Different Types of Arthritis

1. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis. It occurs when your joints are overused, which could be a result of age, joint injuries, or obesity. It’s most commonly found on the joints that hold a lot of weight, like your knees, hips, feet, and spine.


  • Deep, aching pain
  • Stiffness after resting
  • Pain when walking
  • Trouble gripping things, bending over, squatting, or climbing stairs
  • Joints that are warm to the touch
  • Swollen or hard-to-move joints
  • Inability to move through a full range of motion

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which your immune system attacks parts of the body, including the joints. This causes inflammation, which leads to severe joint pain. With this condition, lumps can form on your skin called rheumatoid nodules, which are typically located over your joints.


  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling in wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, jaw, or neck
  • More than one swollen joint
  • A symmetrical pattern of inflammation
  • Morning stiffness that can last hours or even the majority of the day

The History And Evolution Of Massage Therapy

Over time, massage therapy has evolved and broken out into more specific practices like sports massage made for athletes and Swedish full-body massage. This blog will delve deeper into the background of massage therapy.
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3. Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the skin and joints. It causes raised, patchy red and white sections of inflamed skin with scales. This typically occurs on the tops of the elbows and knees, navel, scalp, and skin around the genitals or anus. This type of arthritis usually starts between the ages of 30 and 50 but can occur in childhood, as well.


  • Swollen fingers and toes
  • Pitted or discolored fingernails
  • Typically, only one or a few joints are affected

The Prevalence and Impact of Arthritis

Based on a survey taken during 2019-2021, an estimated 53.2 million U.S. adults were diagnosed by a doctor with having some form of arthritis. This is about 21.2% of the adult population. Arthritis was found to be more prevalent among women, with 24.2% of them diagnosed with it. Around 17.9% of men were found to have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis.

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How Massage Therapy Works

Massage therapy helps to decrease arthritis pain and improve flexibility in the muscles, joints, and tendons. It does this by improving circulation and reducing inflammation, which translates to better blood flow to the arthritic joints, resulting in improved movement and reduced pain.

When it comes to arthritis, the increased flexibility and reduction of pain allow those with the condition to move more, which helps them stay out of the cycle of being stiff and sedentary.

Types of Massages For Arthritis

1. Swedish Massage

A Swedish massage involves long, fluid strokes on the skin, muscles, and tissues to help reduce muscle stiffness and joint soreness. They can boost circulation, which may help improve joint range of motion. The therapist may use oil or lotion to help reduce anxiety and stimulate the senses.

2. Deep Tissue Massage

In a deep tissue massage, the therapist manipulates the surface and lower layers of tissues and muscles with strong, focused pressure. This type of massage may result in soreness and should not be performed during active arthritis flare-ups.

3. Hot Stone Massage

With a hot stone massage, the therapist utilizes hot stones to alleviate muscle tension and promote relaxation. The therapist ensures that the stones are at the ideal temperature to increase blood flow and increase the range of motion in the joints.

4. Myofascial Release

A myofascial release manipulates the connective tissues around body structures like blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. The therapist rolls the skin back and forwards over painful areas to stretch and release the connective tissues. This type of massage reduces pain and increases motion.

5. Trigger Point Massage

Trigger point massage involves the therapist relieving pain by applying pressure or vibrations to myofascial trigger points where muscle knots form. This type of pinpointed pressure can relax knots, which reduces pain.

Benefits of Massage for Arthritis

Different types of massage therapy can have varying benefits for those with arthritis.

These benefits typically include:

  • Pain reduction
  • Increased blood flow to the joints
  • Increased range of motion
  • Quality of life improvement
  • Mood boost

How to Maximize the Benefits of Massage

In order to maximize the benefits of massage, you can take these steps during and after the massage:

  • Make the therapist aware of any joint damage, current injuries, bruises, cuts, or rashes so that special care is taken in these areas
  • Let the therapist know if the massage goes from causing slight discomfort to pain
  • Take a warm bath with Epsom salts to loosen your muscles
  • Drink plenty of water after the massage to reduce inflammation and soothe aches

Other steps you can take to benefit more from massage therapy include:

  • Find a therapist who specializes in treating arthritis
  • Give the muscles time to recover between appointments
  • Make and keep regular appointments
  • Exercise between appointments to maintain looser muscles and joints
  • Try different types of massage to find the one that works the best for you

Become a Licensed Massage Therapist

Massage therapy can make a world of difference to those with arthritis or who suffer from pain and stress in general. Being a licensed massage therapist can be extremely rewarding if you have a passion for helping others. Join our massage therapy program at Blue Cliff College to learn everything you need to know to become a licensed massage therapist and start the journey to your new and exciting career.

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