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Swedish Massage Helps Relieve OA Symptoms

Researchers at the Yale PreventionResearch Center and the University ofMedicine and Dentistry of New Jerseyfound massage therapy to be a safe andeffective way to reduce pain and improvefunction in adults with osteoarthritis(OA) of the knee. The 16-week studywas conducted to identify the potentialbenefits of Swedish massage on OApatients with pain, stiffness, and limitedrange of motion. The results of the studywere published in the December 11,2006, issue of the Archives of InternalMedicine.

The 68 study participants, aged 35years and older, all had x-rays that confirmedtheir diagnosis of OA of the knee.They were randomly assigned to eitheran intervention group that received massagetherapy right away or to a wait-listcontrol group that received massagetherapy after an 8-week delay. Bothgroups were encouraged to continue onpreviously prescribed therapies. After thefirst 8 weeks, those participants who initiallyreceived massage therapy had improvedflexibility, less pain, and improvedrange of motion. Those who receivedtheir therapy after the first 8 weeksexperienced similar benefits to thosewho experienced massage therapy atstudy start.

Acupuncture Can Help OA Patients

A recent study published in the November 2006 issue ofArthritis & Rheumatism examined the use of acupuncture as ahelpful addition to routine medical care for patients withosteoarthritis (OA) and tried to determine if the effects of thetreatment continue after therapy is ended. Researchers fromthe University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, conducted arandomized, controlled trial of patients with chronic pain due toOA of the knee or hip.

From July 2001 to July 2004, 3553 patients were divided into3 groups: 322 received up to 15 sessions of acupuncture duringthe first 3 months of the study; 310 received acupunctureduring the last 3 months; and 2921 (those who did not consentto randomization) received the same routine medical treatmentas the acupuncture group. Each patient was followed fora total of 6 months, and quality-of-life and OA surveys wereused to measure outcomes at study start, 3 months, and 6months. Patients with chronic pain due to OA who receivedroutine care and acupuncture were shown to have significantimprovements in symptoms and quality of life, compared withpatients who received only routine care, according toresearchers. They also stated that outcomes were similar forboth acupuncture groups.

Smokers with OA Risk Cartilage Loss

Men who smoke and have osteoarthritis(OA) of the knee risk morepainful and progressive versions of thedisease than nonsmokers, according toresearchers from the Mayo ClinicCollege of Medicine, Rochester, Minn.They looked at 159 men who had OA ofthe knees and were monitored at studystart, at 15 months, and at 30 months.The affected knees were scanned andthe severity of pain was scored. Of allthe participants, 12% were active smokersat the start of the study, smoking anaverage of 20 cigarettes a day for anaverage of 40 years. Those who smokedwere usually younger and thinner—factorsthat normally protect patients fromOA. The smokers, however, were morethan 2 times as likely to have a significantdegree of cartilage loss, comparedwith the nonsmokers. Those whosmoked also reported a greater degreeof pain severity.

Researchers suggest that smokingmay alter a patient's pain threshold.Smoking also increases the levels oftoxic substances in the blood andstarves tissues of oxygen, which mayspeed up the loss of cartilage. The findingswere published in the January 2007edition of the Annals of the RheumaticDiseases.

Self-management of OA Eases Stress,But Not Pain

A study published in the British Medical Journal Online in October 2006 showed thatself-management programs for patients with osteoarthritis (OA) do not reducepatients' experiences with pain or the number of visits to the physician for OA. Patientcenteredarthritis self-management programs were tested on volunteers in the UnitedStates, and the results of the study showed that, while these programs helped toreduce anxiety for patients with OA, they had a negligible effect on physical pain.

The study involved 812 patients with OA in the hips and/or knees who were dividedinto 2 groups. One group was placed on a 6-session arthritis self-management programwith an education booklet, and the second received the education bookletalone. The patients completed a questionnaire at the start of the trial, after 4 months,and after 1 year. Those in the self-management program experienced a reduction inanxiety levels and an improvement in their confidence to manage their symptoms.Neither group, however, experienced a significant reduction in pain or improved physicalfunctioning.

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