Can Massage Help Knee Osteoarthritis Pain?

istock/Moyo Studio

Massage therapy can promote at least short-term relief of pain and stiffness in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA), according to a multicenter study reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers divided 222 adults with knee OA into three groups. Subjects in one group received a 60-minute full-body massage once a week. A second group received 60 minutes of light-touch therapy (in which a massage therapist gently places his or her hands on the major muscle groups and joints in a specified sequence) once a week. A third group received usual care, with neither massage nor touch therapy.

After eight weeks, a tool that measures a global score combining pain, stiffness, and disability related to arthritis on a scale of 0 (none) to 100 (worst possible) found that the full-body massage recipients scored lower than those in the light-touch and usual care groups, by 8 points and 9.5 points, respectively. However, a year later, scores were similar in all groups. The findings were published in December 2018.

If you decide to try massage, you should be aware that this therapy can actually worsen some conditions, including damaged joints, so give your massage therapist a complete medical history before you get on the table.