Embargoed materials for Complementary & Integrative Medicine Conference

of New Jersey
Newark, NJ

Massage Therapy May be Effective for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee

In a randomized, controlled trial of adults with osteoarthritis of the knee, patients receiving massage therapy experienced significant pain relief and improvements in physical function compared with those not receiving massage therapy. The results, which are to be presented at The North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, May 24th-27th, 2006, suggest that such therapy might offer an alternative or adjunct to drug treatments for osteoarthritis.

In this study, 68 adults over age 35 years with a diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee who experienced pain levels between 4 and 9 on a pain scale (0=no pain, 10=worst pain ever) were enrolled. Patients were excluded if they had rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, pseudo-gout, cancer, or other serious medical conditions or if they had a recent history of steroids or oral corticosteroids use or recent arthroscopy or injury of the knee.

Patients received either 8 weeks of Swedish full-body therapeutic massage or 8 weeks of usual care. In the massage group, massages were given twice weekly for the first 4 weeks, and then once weekly for the remainder of the trial. The two groups were comparable in demographic and baseline clinical characteristics. Specifically, most participants were Caucasian, female, elderly, and generally overweight.

When investigators measured pain in the patients following the 8 week trial, they found that the massage therapy group demonstrated significant decreases in pain sensation and stiffness as well as improvements in physical function and the time to walk 50 feet. At 16 weeks, improvements seen in the massage therapy group generally persisted.

"Massage therapy appears to be efficacious and well tolerated in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee," the inve


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