DURHAM, N.C. : In a study, researchers at Duke Health have found that there is a significant improvement in pain and mobility in patients knees osteoarthritis after undergoing a weekly, whole-body massage for two months. This suggests that massage could offer a safe and effective complement to the management of knee osteoarthritis, at least in the short term. The findings have appeared in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Current treatment options for knee osteoarthritis have limited effectiveness and potential adverse side effects. “Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability and affects more than 30 million people in America,” said lead author Adam Perlman, M.D., program director of the Leadership Program in Integrative Healthcare at Duke University School of Medicine. “Medications are available, but many patients experience adverse side effects, raising the need for alternatives. This study demonstrates that message has the potential to be one such option.”
Perlman and colleagues at four institutions enrolled approximately 200 patients with osteoarthritis in their knees. Patients were randomly divided into three groups: those who received a one-hour, weekly Swedish massage for eight weeks; those who received a light-touch control treatment; and those who received no extra care other than their usual regimen.
After eight weeks, each of the groups was again randomized to continue with massage or light-touch every other week or to receive no treatment for the remainder of the study, which spanned 52 weeks.
Patients were assessed every two months using a standardized questionnaire called the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. The questioinnaire measures pain, stiffness and functional limitations, including how well patients can climb stairs, stand up from sitting or lying down, bend, walk or get out of a car, among other activities.
At eight weeks, massage significantly improved patients’ scores on the questionnaire compared to light-touch and usual care. Massage improved pain, stiffness, and physical function.
At 52 weeks, the twice-monthly massages maintained the improvements observed at eight weeks, but did not provide an additional benefit. There were no significant differences between the groups at 52 weeks.
“Massage therapy is one of the most popular complementary medicine interventions,” Perlman said. “At a time when people are looking for effective non-medication options for pain, this study provides further evidence that message has a potential role, at least for those suffering with osteoarthritis.”
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