Massage Therapy as a Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis Affecting the Wrist and Hand: A Case Report
Posted:Wednesday, November 9, 2016
MacEwan University – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease with a characteristic
destructive nature, and is marked with periods of exacerbations and remissions. Affecting any
joint in the body, RA presents with inflammation, pain, stiffness, edema, and a decrease in joint
function over time. The cause of RA is unknown.
Objective: To examine the effects of massage therapy on RA affecting the wrist and hand using
goniometry, grip strength measures, pinch strength measures, and subjective pain scales.
Methods: The study period included an initial and final assessment with the treatment being six
massage therapy sessions carried out by a student massage therapist over a seven-week timespan.
The subject, a 64-year-old female, presented with RA affecting the left wrist and hand. The
intent of the treatment was to increase grip strength, pinch strength, and range of motion (ROM),
and to decrease pain. In order to achieve these goals, a massage routine with specific techniques
was created. Longitudinal stroking (effleurage), petrissage, trigger point (TrP) therapy, frictions,
manual oscillations, and paraffin wax were the methods applied to the affected hand and wrist.
Results: Grip and pinch strength improved in both the affected and unaffected hands. ROM
increased in the affected hand. The unaffected hand’s ROM results varied, with a slight increase
in one motion and a decrease in another. The subject reported a decrease in pain in the affected
wrist and hand.
Conclusion: The results suggest that certain massage therapy techniques, when implemented
regularly, have a positive effect on RA in the form of increasing strength and ROM, and
Keywords: Rheumatoid arthritis, massage, manual oscillations