September is Arthritis Awareness Month
“Arthritis” comes from the Greek word meaning “inflamed joint”. There are many different conditions that fall into the category of Arthritis; one hundred different kinds, to be exact, and one in seven people suffers from some form of Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease whereby the body, for some unknown reason, attacks its own joint tissue. It can occur at any time during their lifetime, from youth to senior. Osteoarthritis is the most common condition and is considered to be the “wear-and-tear” arthritis. It generally affects people later in life depending on how active their lifestyle was or is and how many injuries they incurred.
What can Massage Therapy and Acupuncture do for Arthritis?
Many people living with arthritis are prescribed high doses of pain killers including opioids such as Demerol and OxyContin or tranquilizers and sedatives such as Valium, Ativan or Xanax. These medications are habit forming and might lead to addiction and abuse and harm their health in the long run. Massage Therapy and Acupuncture might be acceptable alternative or complements to conventional medical care for arthritis. They won’t cure arthritis; however these treatments can help with pain management, swelling and stiffness. Medical acupuncture is a practice of inserting thin sterile needles into specific body points to improve health and well-being. According to recent studies, stimulation of acupuncture points produces a cascade of chemicals and leads to the release of endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural pain killers. Acupuncture treatments work well for knee, wrist, hand, foot and ankle arthritis and pain associated with it.
During both massage therapy and acupuncture, the focus of the treatment is to relieve the compressive forces on the joint by using techniques within the client’s pain tolerance to reduce stiffness, pain, swelling, spasm and to increase the overall range of motion of the affected joints and the muscles surrounding it. Joint play techniques can also be applied directly to the joint to increase lubrication which could, in turn, help to increase nutrition of the cartilage. Any other areas of the body that are compensating for the pain can be addressed as well as any postural concerns or dysfunctions. Your therapist can give you homecare advice such as diet and specific exercises, hydrotherapy or stretches to prolong the effects of your massage and acupuncture as well as to reduce your overall pain on a daily basis.
Hot wax during arthritis treatment?
Several layers of melted paraffin wax can be applied to hands, feet or other parts of the body and are covered with plastic sheets and towels. The wax is then peeled off after 30 minutes. The deep penetrating heat from the wax increases blood circulation and softens collagen of connective tissue in preparation for massage or acupuncture. It also softens dry, cracked skin and decreases pain from stiffened or spastic muscles and joints. It is a great addition to your treatment.
Heat in the form of Infrared light or Hot Packs can also be used to relax muscles and manage pain.
Creams can be used to relieve pain as well. Your therapist could use Capsaicin creams which are the natural substance that gives the heat in hot peppers. These creams can be effective if applied locally. Other muscle creams such as “Ultimate Pain Rub” containing Methyl Salicylate, Menthol and Camphor could also be considered.