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Rheumatoid arthritis patients 'may benefit from massage therapy'

Published on 03 June 2013
Rheumatoid arthritis patients 'may benefit from massage therapy'People with rheumatoid arthritis affecting joints in their arms could benefit from massage therapy, a new study suggests.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the person's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in their joints, causing pain and swelling.

Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine in the US performed a study to see whether people with the disease benefited from receiving regular massages.

The team recruited 42 adults, all of whom had upper limb joints that were affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

Half of the participants were assigned to receive moderate pressure massages once per week for four weeks on their affected arm, as well as being given guidance on how to perform self-massage every day.

The other participants were given light pressure massages as well as learning how to self-massage.

Publishing their findings in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, the study authors revealed that patients who received moderate pressure massages tended to benefit from less pain, greater perceived grip strength and a wider range of motion in their wrist, elbows and shoulders than those given light massages.

Lead researcher Dr Tiffany Field, from the university's Touch Research Institute, commented: "As patients with rheumatoid arthritis work with their doctors to determine the best treatment option, we recommend discussing routine massage therapy given the positive effects found in our study.

"In addition to physical activity such as yoga, moderate pressure massage therapy along with self-massage techniques can help manage the pain and stress that occurs from various forms of arthritis."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: "Massage is often soothing and relaxing for people with rheumatoid arthritis, although thus far there's been little evidence that specific oils add any particular benefit."
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