The knee is a complex arrangement of muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bones that becomes more vulnerable to injury as we age. Chronic knee pain can be caused by a number of factors and can have a negative effect on one’s quality of life. Massage therapy has demonstrated its effectiveness in treating knee pain, as well as aiding the muscles of the lower body to keep the knee in proper alignment.
Knee pain is one of the most common complaints among the U.S. population, accounting for more than 11 million visits to physicians each year. The knee is the largest joint in the body, and its structural complexity makes it one of the most vulnerable areas for injury. Injuries from twisting, straining or trauma are common, and as we age, the cushioning areas of cartilage decrease while ligaments lose much of their elasticity. The knee joint is also frequently affected by osteoarthritis. Several studies have shown massage therapy to be effective in treating knee pain associated with osteoarthritis, and there is data to suggest that massage can relieve knee pain caused by other factors.
Weight plays a significant role in the onset of knee pain. The knee is a weight-bearing joint, and it is estimated that for every 10 pounds of excess weight we carry, the knee experiences an added 60 pounds of pressure. Therefore, being 20 or more pounds overweight is comparable to having an extra person for the knees to support. Hamstrings and quadriceps that are too tight can put undue stress on the knee, leading to stress and strain injuries. Poor posture and leg length discrepancy can increase stress on the back and side of the knee, leading to misalignment, pain and swelling.
Massage that is performed regularly on the hips, back and legs can help to correct knee misalignment by lengthening associated muscles and improving posture. Massage supports lymph drainage, which carries toxins from the area and reduces the swelling associated with fluid build up. If the knee has been injured, massaging the quadriceps and hamstrings will reduce the amount of pressure placed on the knee, which will aid in the recovery process.
Studies conducted on the efficacy of massage for osteoarthritis of the knee have concluded that it can help to increase range of motion and reduce pain. The data suggests that massage improved circulation around the knee joint and alleviated pain and tenderness. Regular massage (twice weekly, one hour sessions) also increased patients’ muscle tone and range of motion, which are both key factors in pain reduction.
Conventional treatments for knee pain, especially for the pain associated with osteoarthritis consists of drug therapy, corticosteroid injections, modified exercises as well as surgery. With the exception of exercise, these treatments carry significant side effects that can be undesirable. Using massage therapy as a compliment to conventional treatment can reduce the need for prescription pain-killers and corticosteroid injections and in some cases, eliminate the need for invasive surgery.