February 6, 2014 — A recent study comparing the effectiveness of massage therapy plus topical analgesic and a massage-therapy-only treatment showed that the addition of the topical analgesic provided greater improvement in grip strength and a greater decrease in hand pain, depressed mood and sleep disturbances.
Numerous studies support the effectiveness of massage therapy for pain syndromes including migraine headaches, lower back pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis pain.1 In a 2007 study,2 massage therapy was noted to reduce pain and enhance function for those specifically suffering with hand arthritis.
The purpose of this most recent study,3 conducted by Tiffany Field, PhD, and her team at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, was to determine whether applying Biofreeze topical analgesic following massage might be more effective than massage alone in treating hand arthritis pain. Their study was just published ahead of print in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
“As both massage therapy and Biofreeze Pain Reliever have shown promise in the relief of pain associated with arthritis, we were not surprised by the outcomes from this latest study,” stated Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT, vice president, massage and spa, Performance Health. “Once again, the Touch Research Institute has validated the effectiveness of a low cost, non-pharmaceutical course of treatment that so many individuals are looking for today.”
In this study, 20 females with hand arthritis were randomly assigned to either a hand massage-only group or a group that received the same hand massage and a post-massage application of Biofreeze Pain Reliever gel. The study participants had an average age of 47.6 years. Both groups received a 15-minute moderate pressure massage each week for four weeks. In addition, all participants were taught the massage techniques and performed daily hand massages at home. The Biofreeze group had the topical analgesic applied at the conclusion of each massage session, both in clinic and home.
Each study group was assessed for their pain, grip strength, mood and sleep disturbances before and after the four week intervention. Both groups significantly improved in their outcome measures. However, the massage-plus-analgesic group showed greater improvement when the two groups were compared on the changes from the first to the last day of treatment. Field emphasizes the importance of self-massage by saying, “Getting a massage every week has significant benefits for those with arthritic pain, but self-massage followed by Biofreeze Pain Reliever on the days between can be even more effective”.
It’s important to note that this study did not include a control group, thus limiting conclusions on cause-and-effect. Nonetheless, the authors concluded, “The current study suggests that the combination of moderate pressure massage administered by the therapist and by the participants and the application of topical analgesic following the massage may be a more effective therapy for increasing grip strength and reducing pain and the associated depressed mood and sleep disturbances in individuals with hand arthritis.”
Source: Performance Health
1Lawle and Cameron, 2006; Hsieh et al., 2004; Kalichman, 2010; Field, et al., 2103
2Field et al., 2007
3REFERENCE: Field T, et al. 2014. Massage therapy plus topical analgesic is more effective than massage alone for hand arthritis pain. Article in press. J Bodywork Movement Therapies.