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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 17:20 EDT

New Touch Research Institute Study Indicates Massage Therapy Reduces Hand Arthritis Pain and Increases Grip Strength

October 31, 2006

Massage therapy is effective in reducing hand pain and increasing grip strength, according to a new study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Fla.

Arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease, frequently located in the small joints of the hands. It affects the active, working-age population as well as the elderly, and it causes pain, activity limitations, and a lower quality of life. Many daily activities require considerable hand strength, such as opening doors, opening jar lids, lifting and carrying items. Hand strength in patients with arthritis is 75 percent lower than in healthy patients.

“While massage therapy has decreased pain in several pain syndromes including fibromyalgia, lower back pain and migraine, this is the first report of pain reduction in hand arthritis following massage therapy,” said Dr. Tiffany Field, TRI director. “Up to now, many other interventions to alleviate hand pain have been tried — medications, physical therapy and various forms of exercise. The results of this study are very encouraging for the application of massage therapy as a complementary alternative treatment for hand arthritis.”

Under the study, 22 adults ranging in age from 20 to 65 with wrist/hand arthritis were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or a standard treatment control group. The massage therapy group received massage on the affected wrist/hand once a week for a four-week period and also conducted self-massage on the wrist/ hand at home daily. BIOTONE analgesic Polar Lotion was used in the massage therapy. The standard treatment control group did not receive massage therapy during the study.

The massage therapy group had lower anxiety and depressed mood scores after the first and last sessions, and by the end of the study reported less pain and greater grip strength. The massage therapy group showed greater improvement than the standard treatment control group on all of these measures across the study period.

The study was conducted with funding from BIOTONE, San Diego, a leading provider of professional massage and body treatment products, and complementary supplies. (www.biotone.com)

About the Touch Research Institutes

The Touch Research Institutes (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine is the first center that devotes its efforts solely to the study of touch and its applications in science and medicine for health promotion and the treatment of disease. TRI was founded in 1992. More information about TRI is available at http://www.miami.edu/touch-research.