Massage Therapy and Quality of Life in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Qualitative Study

Pain Med. 2017 Jun 1;18(6):1168-1175. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw217.


Objective: We hypothesized that participants receiving Swedish massage would experience benefits such as stress reduction and enhanced quality of life, in addition to the osteoarthritis-specific effects assessed in a randomized controlled clinical trial.

Design: Qualitative methods were used to explore a deeper contextual understanding of participants' experiences with massage and osteoarthritis, in addition to the quantitative data collected from primary and secondary outcome measures of the dose-finding study.

Setting: Two community hospitals affiliated with academic health centers in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Subjects: Eighteen adults who previously participated in a dose-finding clinical trial of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Methods: Face-to-face and telephone interviews using a standardized interview guide. Triangulation of qualitative and quantitative data allowed for a more thorough understanding of the effects of massage therapy.

Results: Three salient themes emerged from our analysis. Participants discussed 1) relaxation effects, 2) improved quality of life associated with receiving massage therapy, and 3) the accessibility of massage therapy in treating osteoarthritis.

Conclusions: Participant responses noted empowerment with an improved ability to perform activities of daily living after experiencing massage therapy. The majority of statements were consistent with their quantitative changes on standard osteoarthritis measures. Future research in pain conditions should include health-related quality of life assessments as well as outcomes related to perceived well-being, along with greater exploration of the concept of salutogenic side effects of an intervention in the context of complementary and integrative therapies.

Keywords: Massage; Osteoarthritis; Perceptions; Qualitative; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods
  • Massage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / psychology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*