Objective: Chinese massage (Tui Na) is one of the most popular Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies for knee osteoarthritis (OA). Several studies have subjectively evaluated the effect of Chinese massage on knee OA through self-assessment questionnaires; however, very few studies have objectively assessed the effect by measuring knee muscle strength. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of Chinese massage in improving knee extensor and flexor muscle strength in patients with knee OA.
Methods: Thirty patients with knee OA received Chinese massage therapy three times per week for 2 weeks. Patients completed pre- and post-treatment Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) pain questionnaires, and pre- and post-treatment knee muscle strength was evaluated using the Biodex Multi-Joint System 3. Isokinetic muscle strength measurements were performed at 60 degrees/s and 180 degrees/s. The peak torque (PT), peak torque/body weight(PT/BW), total work (TW), average power (AP), hamstring/quadriceps (H/Q), and range of motion (ROM) values were recorded separately for flexors and extensors.
Results: Chinese massage therapy significantly improved knee pain as assessed by the VAS in patients with knee OA (P < 0.05). Post-treatment values were significantly greater than pre-treatment values in the extensor muscles for PT (right P = 0.013, left P = 0.001), PT/BW (right P = 0.008, left P = 0.001) and TW (right P = 0.036, left P = 0.004) at 60 degrees/s. The AP increased significantly after treatment in the flexor muscles in the right knee (P = 0.009) and the extensor muscles in the left knee (P = 0.001). There were no significant differences in pre- and post-treatment ROM and H/Q at 60 degrees/s and 180 degrees/s.
Conclusion: Chinese massage therapy decreased pain and may improve extensor muscle strength in patients with knee OA, but does not appear to improve ROM.