"Massage is free of any known side effects and according to our results, clearly shows therapeutic promise," said senior investigator of the study David L. Katz, M.D., associate adjunct professor at Yale School of Medicine. "So-called ‘alternative' treatments like massage are most important when conventional treatments are far from ideal. Currently available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often not well-tolerated by older adults with osteoarthritis. Cox-II inhibitors were developed as substitutes for traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, but pose highly-publicized toxicity problems."

The 68 study participants, who were at least age 35 with x-rays confirming their diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee, were randomly assigned either to an intervention group that received massage therapy immediately, or to a wait-list control group that received massage after an initial eight-week delay. Both groups were encouraged to continue previously prescribed medications and treatments.

Participants in the massage intervention group received a standard one-hour Swedish massage twice a week for four weeks, followed by Swedish massage once a week for the next four weeks. After the first eight weeks of massage therapy, participants had improved flexibility, less pain and improved range of motion.

Measures of pain, stiffness, and functional ability were all significantly improved by the intervention as compared to the control group. Those who only continued with their usual care without massage showed no changes in symptoms. During weeks nine through 16, they received the massage intervention and experienced benefits similar to those receiving the initial massage therapy. When reassessed eight weeks after completion of the massage intervention, the benefits of massage persisted and remained significant, although the magnitude of effect was somewhat reduced.

MEDICA.de; Source: Yale University