Massage for Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Beginner's Guide
I’ve worked as a massage therapist for 30 years, and in that time I’ve massaged many clients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
For clients with RA, there’s evidence that receiving massage therapy once a week for four weeks, and then scaling back to once a month, is enough to reap the benefits of massage. These benefits include pain relief and maintenance of joint mobility. In the early stages of RA, massage may even help slow down the progression of the disease.
One of the first questions people with any condition often ask is: Can you fix me?
In the case of RA, the short answer is no. Massage therapy can’t completely heal RA. But it can relieve pain and help you stay active longer.
What You Should Expect from the Massage
I start my sessions by asking clients which areas they want me to work on. Most massage sessions will take about 50 minutes to an hour on the table. I suggest eating an hour or two before your session and visiting the restroom before getting started.
An hour-long massage can range in cost from $50 to $150, with $80 being fairly typical. Depending on your insurance company and your state of residence, there’s a chance the expense could be covered for you (especially if your doctor writes a prescription for you to receive massage therapy).
Most massage therapists will split an hour-long session in half, with the first half involving therapeutic massage and the second half involving relaxation massage.
During the therapeutic massage, the focus will be on the joints that are causing you problems. Most clients with RA need a fair amount of therapeutic massage, but the stage of your disease determines how thoroughly I can alleviate your pain. In the early stages, I can do a lot more to retain mobility in your joints, but if your joints are permanently deformed or calcified, the massage would be more limited.
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