Neck arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion is increased by massage therapy

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;20(4):219-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Background: The literature on the effects of massage therapy on neck arthritis pain is mixed depending on the dose level, and it is also based on self-report. In the present study an attempt was made to enhance the effects of weekly massage therapy by having the participants massage themselves daily. And in addition to self-reports on pain, range of motion (ROM) and the associated ROM pain were assessed before and after the first massage session and pre-post the last session one month later.

Methods: Staff and faculty members at a medical school who were eligible for the study if they had neck arthritis pain were randomly assigned to a massage or a waitlist control group (N = 24 per group). The massage group received moderate pressure massages weekly by a massage therapist plus daily self-massages. The waitlist control group received the same schedule massages one month after being control subjects.

Results: The massage group showed significant short-term reductions after the first and last day massages in self-reported pain and in ROM-associated pain as well as an increase in ROM. Comparisons between the massage group (N = 23) and the control group (N = 14) on the last versus the first day data suggested significantly different changes including increased ROM and reduced ROM-associated pain for the massage group and reduced ROM and increased ROM-associated pain for the control group. These changes occurred specifically for flexion and right and left lateral flexion motions.

Discussion: These data highlight the importance of designing massage therapy protocols that target the most affected neck muscle groups and then assessing range of motion and related pain before and after the massage therapy. Comparisons with other studies also suggest that moderate pressure may contribute to the massage effects, and the use of daily self-massages between sessions may sustain the effects and serve as a cost-effective therapy for individuals with neck arthritis pain.

Keywords: Massage therapy; Neck arthritis; Pain; Range of motion.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / epidemiology
  • Arthritis / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Self Care / methods*