RESEARCH REVIEW: Massage & Osteoarthritis of the Knee

As featured in the NLSSM Newsletter:


It has long been proven that prescribed exercise is beneficial to individuals suffering with Osteoarthritis of the knee.  Generally when talking to people with this condition, they will gladly demonstrate the various exercises they have been working on to keep the knee mobile and to help reduce pain, but what happens when this relief starts to wear off and the pain starts to creep back?  Is there anything else that can be done? 

Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition where the cartilage within the joint has been damaged or worn away due to wear, tear and overuse.  With these compromised articulating surfaces the knee can become stiff, swollen and painful.  The bones of the joint can thicken along with the ligaments of the joint capsule affecting movement to an even greater level.   At its worst movement at the joint can be completely restricted, I can remember one particular client who presented with a completely straight leg with no flexion available at all! 

The general course of treatment for this condition has been for Doctors to prescribe a treatment plan that may cover treatments like the use of painkillers, NSAID’s including steroid injections and also physiotherapy.  The goal being to reduce pain and swelling, to keep the joint strong yet mobile and to help slow down further wear and tear.  In a lot of cases this can improve the situation for a period of time but it is not uncommon that the patient may reach a point where a knee replacement is recommended by their medical team.  So what can massage do to help this problem and stave off a knee replacement as long as possible? 

The latest research1  published this month has shown that massage to the muscles affecting the knee in combination with exercise rehabilitation improves the symptoms in sufferers of this condition.  Could this mean that adding massage into the mix could extend the period of relief for the client?  Couple this with another research study2 at the most effective dosage of massage as a treatment and the research is stating that 60 minute sessions once a week is the optimal frequency to improve the symptoms of a sufferer of osteoarthritis of the knee.  

We have all heard potential clients who claim that ‘there is nothing they can do’ about their lack of movement and level of discomfort as they have Osteoarthritis and need a knee replacement.   Maybe they do need a replacement, but perhaps adding massage to their regular routine can help give them a better quality of life and movement in the interim.  Chat to the people you meet, share with them what the latest research is saying. You may be surprised how many people will give it a go and hopefully you can make a real difference to your new clients.


Research/References:
 1/ Effectiveness of massage therapy as co-adjuvant treatment to exercise in osteoarthritis of the knee:   A randomized control trial. 
  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24867903  
  2/Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. (60 minutes once a week) 
  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22347369  
  What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee? http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/osteoarthritis-of-the-knee/how-is-the-knee-structured.aspx

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