Massage For Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is also referred to as degenerative joint disease, and involves the breakdown and loss of healthy cartilage in synovial joints, especially those weight bearing joints (Werner, 2009). It is the most common type of arthritis, involving pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion (Udell, 2017).



A healthy knee (left) vs a knee inflicted with osteoarthritis (right)


Causes of Osteoarthritis (Mayo Clinic, 2017 & Werner, 2009)

  • Age: As we age, many of the tissues in our body naturally begin to lose their viscosity and degenerate. This is true for cartilage between the joints as well. As we get older, cartilage becomes drier, and therefore more prone to injury.
  • Gender: While men and women seem to be affected by osteoarthritis in about equal numbers, women tend to develop it earlier, and with higher severity.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight adds more stress to the weight bearing joints of the body, increasing the risk cartilage degeneration.
  • Injury (Including Surgery): Injuries to the cartilage can increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Cartilage has no blood supply of its own, and tends to heal slowly.
  • Occupation: Activities that cause repetitive motions that put stress on joints increase the degeneration of cartilage between joints.
  • Genetic Predisposition


Symptoms of Osteoarthritis (Mayo Clinic, 2017 & Werner, 2009)

  • Pain and tenderness in the joint
  • Stiffness or restricted movement in the joint
  • Grating sensation upon movement of joint
  • Bone spurs (extra bits of bone around affected joint)
  • Heberden nodes (bulges at distal interphalangeal joints of fingers)
  • Bouchard nodes (bulges at proximal interphalangeal joints of fingers)


Can Massage Therapy Be a Treatment? (Udell, 2017 & Werner, 2009)


Hand Massage


Treatment for osteoarthritis typically includes such treatment as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), topical applications, exercise, nutritional supplements, and in some more severe cases, surgery.

Because osteoarthritis is rarely accompanied by swelling in the joint, massage therapy is typically an excellent complementary treatment for this pathology. Massage therapy can help to relax muscles surrounding the affected joint, and therefore increase the patient’s range of motion, and reduce pain. While it cannot be said that receiving regular massage can be considered a cure for osteoarthritis, it can certainly help to reduce the discomfort from the symptoms.


This blog is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any medical condition. Please remember that massage therapy should not be considered an alternate form of medicine – it is only complementary. Please always follow the advice of your primary care physician and other health care professionals.



“Osteoarthritis.” [Internet]. [Updated 2017 Aug 16]. Mayo Clinic. [Accessed 2017 Aug 20]. Available from:

Udell J. Osteoarthritis. [Internet]. [Updated 2017 Mar]. American College of Rheumatology. [Accessed 2017 Aug 20]. Available from:

Werner, R. 2009. A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, Fourth Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 21201. Pp 137-141



Blaus, Bruce. Osteoarthritis. 2017 Feb 1. Wikipedia.


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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