Additional Therapies & Devices
Massage therapy and heat/cold treatments may be beneficial in helping you manage OA symptoms, and assistive devices can play a helpful role in your daily activities.
If you have arthritis or a related disease, massage therapy may help you relieve pain and stiffness. However, people with arthritis experiencing flares should use caution when trying massage. In addition, people with skin rashes, fever or active inflammation may not wish to get a massage until those conditions clear up. To be certain if massage is safe for you, consult with your doctor before booking a massage appointment, or using any massage device or self-massage technique at home.
Choosing a Type of Massage
There are many different types of massage therapy, from classic Swedish massage to Asian techniques that involve manipulation of pressure points. Many day spas and massage therapy clinics offer an array of massage therapies, so it’s best to read up on these, and consult your physician, before booking an appointment to ensure the therapy you select is right for you.
Selecting a Therapist
Each state licenses massage therapists based on their hours of training, but each state has its own requirements. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for a referral, speak to other friends with arthritis who have used a massage therapist, or contact a local licensing board for a list of licensed therapists. The American Massage Therapy Association recommends that you ask any prospective therapist if they are licensed, if they are certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), where they received their training or if they graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, and if they’re trained in any specific massage techniques.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Therapist
It’s important to select a therapist you’re comfortable with, so here are some things to consider:
- 1. Do you prefer a male or a female therapist?
- 2. Does the therapist have experience working with people who have arthritis or pain?
- 3. Is the therapist receptive to my questions?
- 4. Is the therapist communicative and considerate of my comfort?
If you have arthritis, it’s very important to find a therapist who communicates with you about your disease. Tell your therapist you have arthritis, and be as specific as possible, when you book your appointment. Let her know if your arthritis affects your knees, hips, or back, for example, so she can use care when applying massage to those areas, or avoiding them altogether.
Tips to Make Your Massage More Comfortable
Use the following tips to make your massage therapy more comfortable and enjoyable:
Don’t eat just before your massage
Eat earlier in the day if possible, and let your body digest the meal. In many cases, you will be lying on your stomach during a massage, so having a full stomach may make you uncomfortable.
Be on Time
If you are rushing to your appointment, you may feel frazzled and find it hard to relax during the massage.
Take Off Only as Much Clothing as You Prefer
Some people choose to remove all of their clothing during a massage. Others prefer to leave on their underwear or remain fully clothed. A sheet or large towel will be provided to cover you completely during the session, so your body won’t be exposed. You’ll be able to undress and dress again in total privacy; the therapist should leave the room while you are dressing. If you are having a chair massage or mini-massage in a public place like a nail salon, you’ll remain fully clothed. In addition, shiatsu massage and similar therapies are performed while clothed. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you decide to stay clothed, wear comfortable, soft fabrics and loose-fitting items.
Talk to Your Therapist Before Starting
Your therapist should ask you questions about your general health (such as if you have conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure or other health problems), what type of pressure you prefer, what areas of your body she should concentrate on and which she should avoid, if you like lotion or oils or not, and other key concerns. Be honest with your therapist. Don’t hesitate to let her know that you may have concerns about the massage, or what issues you’d like her to address.
Communicate During the Massage as Needed
During your massage, speak up if you feel the therapist is not using the proper pressure or if her hands feel cold or too oily from the lotion. Also, let her know if you don’t like the room temperature, or any other things she can adjust for your comfort.
Breathing helps you relax. Don’t hold your breath if you feel anxious or if the therapist is vigorously massaging an area of the body.
Speak Up if You Feel Pain
If a massage hurts at any time, tell your therapist immediately. While some researchers recommend moderate pressure to relieve arthritis symptoms, massage should not be a painful experience.
Don’t Sit Up or Stand Too Quickly After Your Massage
Some people may feel dizzy or light-headed following a long massage, especially if the room is dark and they have been under warm towels or blankets. Relax when your massage is done, sit up slowly, and take your time standing and dressing.
Drink Lots of Water After Your Massage
Most massage therapists suggest drinking a few cups of water after your massage to hydrate you, and usually will offer you water just after your session. Also, massaging muscles and tissues may release toxins that you’ll want to flush out following your therapy. Without it, you may feel queasy or light-headed.
*Be sure to ask if your massage therapist is licensed. Copyright © 2012 Arthritis Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this topic visit www.arthritis.org.
Heat and Cold Treatments
Using heat and cold treatments can reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. They are especially good for joint pain caused by a flare. Heat relaxes your muscles and stimulates blood circulation. You can use dry heat, such as heating pads or heat lamps, or moist heat, such as warm baths or heated wash cloths.
Before Using Heat and Cold Treatments
Before using either treatment, be sure your skin is dry and free from cuts and sores. If you have visible skin damage, don't use cold or heat, especially paraffin wax baths. Use a towel to protect your skin from injury when you are treating an area where the bone is close to the skin's surface.
After using heat or cold, carefully dry the area and check for purplish-red skin or hives, which may indicate the treatment was too strong. Also check the area for any swelling or discoloration. Gently move your joint to reduce stiffness. Allow your skin to return to normal temperature and color before using heat or cold again.
It is normal for your skin to appear pink after using a cold or hot pack. However, if an area appears dark red or spotty red and white, there may be some skin damage. Blisters may indicate the pack was too cold or hot.
Copyright © 2012 Arthritis Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this topic, visit www.arthritis.org.
Using Heat and Cold for Pain Relief
- Take a long, warm shower when you awaken to ease morning stiffness.
- Try using a warm paraffin wax treatment system, available at many drugstores or beauty-supply stores.
- Soak in a warm bath or whirlpool.
- Buy moist heat pads from the drugstore, or make one at home by putting a wet washcloth in a freezer bag and heating it in the microwave for one minute. Wrap the hot pack in a towel and place it over the affected area.
- To soothe stiff and painful joints in your hands, apply mineral oil to them, put on rubber dish washing gloves, and place your hands in hot tap water.
- Incorporate other warming elements into your daily routines, such as warming your clothes in the dryer before dressing, or using an electric blanket and turning it up for a few minutes before getting out of bed.
- Apply a bag of ice wrapped in a towel or a gel-filled cold pack from the drugstore to painful areas.
- Wrap a towel around a bag of frozen vegetables and place it on sore joints for pain relief. This type of cold pack easily conforms to your body.
Copyright © 2012 Arthritis Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this topic visit www.arthritis.org.
Bracing: One Treatment Option for Arthritis*
One approach to managing osteoarthritis (OA) is mechanical in nature and includes the use of orthotic devices, such as canes, shoe wedges and knee braces. Braces can play a therapeutic role in managing osteoarthritis, especially when the disease affects the knee.
What Is Bracing?
Braces are devices designed to stabilize a joint, reduce pain and inflammation, and help the people wearing them to build stronger muscles. Braces are made from an array of plastics, metals, leather and moldable foam. Many types of braces are available for people with osteoarthritis.
Other braces, such as functional knee braces, may be custom-designed and fitted especially for you by a healthcare professional who specializes in orthotics – the science of developing devices designed to help weakened limbs function better. A physician, orthotist, or physical or occupational therapist will take into consideration your individual circumstances, as well as the part of your body affected by OA, before incorporating bracing into your treatment plan.
Although bracing on its own seldom is enough to relieve all symptoms a person with OA may experience, properly prescribed and accurately designed braces can be a beneficial part of a treatment plan.
*Be sure to check with your healthcare professional to see if these devices are right for you. Copyright © 2012 Arthritis Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this topic visit www.arthritis.org.
How Do You Walk Properly With a Cane?*
A physical therapist can perform a thorough evaluation to determine issues contributing to difficulty walking and provide interventions and recommendations to improve safety, stability, and efficiency in walking. When using a device like a cane it is important that the cane has been checked for fit and safety.
In general, a cane is used on the side opposite the involved leg and is advanced with the involved leg to reduce the amount of weight placed on that leg. It is important, however to be evaluated by a physical therapist to insure you are using the correct device; it is fitted correctly for you; and you understand the best way to use it to maximize your safe and independent mobility.
*Be sure to check with your healthcare professional to see if these devices are right for you. MoveFowardPT.com, the official consumer Web site of the American Physical Therapy Association, ©2012 www.moveforwardpt.com
Physical Therapists Can Properly Assess & Fit Walking Aids to Prevent Injuries*
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging elderly adults who use canes and walkers as walking aids to be properly assessed and fitted by a physical therapist to avoid fall-related injuries.
In addition to providing a proper fit, your physical therapist can assess your individual needs to ensure you are using the proper walking aid and that it is in proper working condition. Some general tips for those using a cane or walker as a walking aid are:
- The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when your arms are at your sides.
- When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent when holding on, but you shouldn't have to bend forward at the waist to reach it.
- Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.
*Be sure to check with your healthcare professional to see if these devices are right for you. Copyright ©2012 American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved. www.apta.org
A Good Shoe
Assistive Devices Images*
An assistive device can help you manage daily activities that may be restricted by arthritis pain. And there are many to choose from, like canes, walkers, and jar openers. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to help decide which ones may work for you. Here are a few examples of what’s available:
*Be sure to check with your healthcare professional to see if these devices are right for you.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
All prescription NSAIDs, like CELEBREX, ibuprofen, naproxen, and meloxicam have the same cardiovascular warning. They may all increase the chance of heart attack or stroke that can lead to death. This chance increases if you have heart disease or risk factors for it, such as high blood pressure or when NSAIDs are taken for long periods.
CELEBREX should not be used right before or after certain heart surgeries.
Serious skin reactions, or stomach and intestine problems such as bleeding and ulcers, can occur without warning and may cause death. Patients taking aspirin and the elderly are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers.
Tell your doctor if you have:
- A history of ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestines
- High blood pressure or heart failure
- Kidney or liver problems
CELEBREX should not be taken in late pregnancy.
Do not take CELEBREX if you have bleeding in the stomach or intestine, or you've had an asthma attack, hives, or other allergic reactions to aspirin, any other NSAID medicine or certain drugs called sulfonamides.
Life threatening allergic reactions can occur with CELEBREX. Get help right away if you've had swelling of the face or throat or trouble breathing.
Prescription CELEBREX should be used exactly as prescribed at the lowest dose possible and for the shortest time needed.
CELEBREX is indicated for the relief of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, and for the management of acute pain in adults.