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Follow the latest research regarding osteoarthritis treatment options.

The Message on Massage Pain Relief

Massage therapy — the use of massage techniques by a trained professional to enhance health and well-being — is growing in popularity. A 2006 survey by the American Massage Therapy Association found that more than one in six US adults gets a professional massage every year, and pain relief is often cited as the reason. Up until lately, though, the possible benefits of massage hadn't been carefully studied in people with osteoarthritis. A randomized controlled trial (Archives of Internal Medicine, December 11/25, 2006) — high standard in medical research — changed that. It found that the addition of massage therapy to usual care may help reduce pain and improve function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Hands-on benefits

The study included 68 people with knee osteoarthritis, who were randomly divided into a massage therapy group and a control group, which was included for comparison's sake and didn't receive the massage treatment. Those in the massage group received twice-weekly massages for four weeks, then once-weekly massages for another four weeks after that. Swedish massage — the most common type — was used. This form of massage involves long gliding strokes, kneading and tapping on the upper layers of muscle. Everyone in the study also continued their usual medical care.

The study found that massage therapy led to improvements in pain, stiffness, flexibility, physical functioning and walking ability. Most benefits were still evident eight weeks after the massage sessions ended. While more research is needed to confirm these findings, the results are encouraging. They're also consistent with the benefits seen in studies involving other kinds of arthritis.

Lowdown on rubdowns

Besides Swedish massage, several other types of massage are available. All involve rubbing, kneading, pressing or otherwise manipulating the muscles and other soft tissues. For example, deep tissue massage is another popular technique that uses slow strokes and firm finger pressure to reach deeper layers of muscle. The exact mechanisms by which massage might work are still being explored. However, some ways that massage might help ease arthritis symptoms include bringing warmth to painful areas, increasing circulation to affected joints and relaxing nearby muscles.

In general, massage seems to have few serious risks if appropriate precautions are taken. Be sure to let your massage therapist know about your osteoarthritis and any other medical conditions you may have. Avoid getting a massage when you're having a flare or coming down with an illness, and don't massage areas where the skin is broken or tender. Also, keep in mind that massage therapy is meant to be used in addition to — not in place of — conventional medical treatment.

The bottom line

Massage therapy has been practiced for thousands of years. It was even used by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of medicine. Today, it's enjoying a resurgence of popularity as a way to reduce stress and manage pain.

To find a qualified massage therapist, look for one who is licensed by the state and/or has the credential Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB). Ask about education as well, and look for a graduate of a program accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. The American Massage Therapy Association offers an online directory (www.amtamassage.org). Beyond that, your doctor or local hospital may be able to refer you to a massage therapist who has experience with osteoarthritis.

PLEASE NOTE: The studies and their findings that are presented in this article are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of the advice of your doctor. By providing you with this information, Sanofi Biosurgery is not endorsing its content nor does it represent that the information is necessarily appropriate for you. You should consult with your doctor before starting any new health or exercise regimen.

References

"Massage therapy: not just a trend." American Massage Therapy Association. Available at: http://www.amtamassage.org/research/Consumer-Survey-Fact-Sheets/2006-Massage-Therapy-Consumer-Survey.html. Accessed September 6, 2011.

"Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Controlled Trial." A.I. Perlman et al. Archives of Internal Medicine. December 11/25, 2006, vol. 166, no. 22, pp. 2533-2538.

“Choosing a Type of Massage.” American Massage Therapy Association. Available at: http://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/massage_type.html. Accessed September 6, 2011.

“Consider massage.” Arthritis Foundation. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/pain-center-massage.php. Accessed September 6, 2011.

“Massage therapy as CAM.” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/massage. Accessed September 6, 2011.

“Alternative Treatments for Arthritis: An A to Z Guide.” D. Foltz-Gray. Atlanta, GA: Arthritis Foundation, 2005.

“Finding a qualified massage therapist.” American Massage Therapy Association. Available at: http://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/find.html. Accessed September 6, 2011.

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Indication

Synvisc-One® (hylan G-F 20) is indicated for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conservative non-pharmacologic therapy and simple analgesics, e.g., acetaminophen.

Important Safety Information for Synvisc-One

Before trying Synvisc-One, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face, tongue or throat, respiratory difficulty, rash, itching or hives to SYNVISC or any hyaluronan-based products. Allergic reactions, some which can be potentially severe, have been reported during the use of Synvisc-One. Should not be used in patients with an infected knee joint, skin disease or infection around the area where the injection will be given, and should be used with caution when there is swelling of the legs due to problems with venous stasis or lymphatic drainage.

Synvisc-One is only for injection into the knee, performed by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. Synvisc-One has not been tested to show pain relief in joints other than the knee. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to products from birds – such as feathers, eggs or poultry – or if your leg is swollen or infected.

Synvisc-One has not been tested in children (≤21years old), pregnant women or women who are nursing. You should tell your doctor if you think you are pregnant or if you are nursing a child.

Talk to your doctor before resuming strenuous weight-bearing activities after treatment.

The side effects sometimes seen after Synvisc-One include (<2% each): pain, swelling, heat, redness, and/or fluid build-up in or around the knee. Tell your doctor if you experience any side effects after treatment with Synvisc-One.

 

View the Complete Prescribing Information for Synvisc-One

 

Indication

SYNVISC® (hylan G-F 20) is used to relieve knee pain due to osteoarthritis (OA). It is for patients who do not get enough relief from simple painkillers such as acetaminophen, or from exercise and physical therapy.

Important Safety Information for SYNVISC

Before trying SYNVISC, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face, tongue or throat, respiratory difficulty, rash, itching or hives to SYNVISC or any hyaluronan-based products. Serious allergic reactions have been reported. Should not be used in patients with an infected knee joint, skin disease or infection around the area where the injection will be given, or circulatory problems in the legs.

SYNVISC is only for injection into the knee, performed by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. SYNVISC has not been tested to show pain relief in joints other than the knee. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to products from birds - such as feathers, eggs or poultry - or if your leg is swollen or infected.

SYNVISC has not been tested in children (≤21years old), pregnant women or women who are nursing. You should tell your doctor if you think you are pregnant or if you are nursing a child. Talk to your doctor before resuming strenuous weight-bearing activities after treatment.

The side effects sometimes seen after SYNVISC include pain, swelling, heat, redness, and/or fluid buildup in or around the knee. These reactions were generally mild and did not last long, but in rare occasions these side effects were more severe. The most commonly occurring adverse events outside of the injected knee were rash, fever, nausea, and headache.

View the Complete Prescribing Information for SYNVISC

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Important Safety Information: SYNVISC and Synvisc-One are contraindicated in patients with known hypersensitivity to hyaluronan products or patients with infections in or around the target knee.