Decmeber 11, 2006
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
Study Shows Osteoarthritis Patients Benefit from Swedish Massage
NEWARK — Massage therapy is a safe and effective way to reduce pain and improve function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the Yale Prevention Research Center report in the first clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of this treatment.
The 16-week study was conducted to identify the potential benefits of Swedish massage on osteoarthritis patients with pain, stiffness and limited range of motion in the knee. Outcomes of the study are published in the December 11 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that affects 21 million Americans and causes more physical limitation than lung disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 68 study participants, who were at least age 35 and had 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 at the Siegler Center for Integrative Medicine at the Saint Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, New Jersey. After the first eight weeks of massage therapy, participants had improved flexibility, less pain and improved range of motion.
“Participants in this study showed significant improvement in symptoms after finishing the eight weeks of massage therapy and the benefits persisted when we evaluated them eight weeks after the massage intervention was completed,” said Dr. Adam Perlman, executive director of the Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at UMDNJ.
The primary study outcomes showed changes in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index pain and functional scores, as well as changes in the Visual Analog Scale assessment of pain. 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.
“Massage is free of any known side effects and according to our results, clearly shows therapeutic promise,” said senior investigator of the study Dr. David L. Katz, associate adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at Yale School of Medicine and director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. “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 like Vioxx were developed as substitutes for traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, but pose highly-publicized toxicity problems of their own.”
The research was the result of a CDC grant to Dr. Katz at the Prevention Research Center at Yale.
Dr. Perlman, who directed the study at UMDNJ, said “Our results suggest that massage therapy can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment for osteoarthritis. Ultimately, massage may be shown to lessen a patient’s reliance on medications and decrease health care costs. That could serve to change practice standards so that massage is a more common option for the many patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.”
Dr. Perlman and Dr. Katz believe further study of the cost-effectiveness and the lasting impact of the intervention is warranted. They have begun collaborating on a follow-up study.
In addition to Dr. Perlman and Dr. Katz, other authors on the study included Alyse Sabina, Anna-Leila Williams and Valentine Yanchou Njike, M.D., all of the Yale Prevention Research Center.
Citation: Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 166, No. 22 (December 11, 2006)
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation ’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.