For arthritis sufferers, life may sometimes seem like a constant quest for relief from pain, swelling and stiffness. But other than using heat and cold therapy, engaging in moderate exercise, and taking over-the-counter drugs-or stronger prescription ones-what treatments are effective? Consider opening your mind to chiropractic and massage.

Chiropractic is the practice of treating musculoskeletal ailments using a hands-on approach consisting of adjustments and manipulations. Chiropractors may use gentle pressure to help patients move more easily and comfortably. These adjustments may be made anywhere on the body; the neck, back, or extremities are often targeted. If done properly, they can prevent or reduce the severity of arthritic flare-ups by increasing mobility.

"Motion is the most important thing you can do to keep that joint healthy for as long as possible," says .Dr. Scott Bautch, a chiropractor in Wausau, Wisconsin and past chairman of the American Chiropractic Association. After performing gentle manipulations and stretches on an arthritic patient, Dr. Bautch often prescribes specific exercises to keep the joint flexible.  "If a person has arthritis in the ankle, for example, I will teach that person to draw A-B-C with their toes, grip a tennis ball with their feet, and use proper footwear and orthotics."

Massage also can greatly benefit arthritis sufferers. In a study conducted at Yale University, patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were given a one-hour massage twice a week for four weeks, then a one-hour massage once a week for the next four weeks. After eight weeks, the participants were more flexible, in less pain, and had a better range of motion than before. A different study at the University of Miami School of Medicine involved adults with arthritis of the hand or wrist. Those receiving a massage once a week for four weeks and also engaging in self massage reported feeling less anxious and depressed after their massage sessions and experienced less pain and more hand strength by the end of the study.

The bottom line? Chiropractic and massage are therapies to be taken seriously, especially if you're looking for drug-free treatments for your arthritis. While they may not completely alleviate your symptoms, they may be worthwhile complements to your other therapies.


American Massage Therapy Association

American Chiropractic Association