Can Massage, Acupuncture, and Acupressure Help Psoriatic Arthritis?

Many people with chronic conditions like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) use complementary therapies to manage their symptoms and improve overall well-being. Common therapies used by people with PsA include massage, acupuncture, and acupressure.

What is a massage?

Massage is a general term that describes using touch to press, rub or manipulate the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage is often used to reduce stress and pain and relieve muscle tension. There are several different types of massage. Some of the most common types include:1,2

  • Swedish massage – This is a gentle approach mainly used for relaxing and energizing.
  • Deep tissue – This uses slower strokes with more pressure to access the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It is often used for muscle damage after injury, such as whiplash or back strain. It also used to break up scar tissue.
  • Sports massage – This can be similar to Swedish or deep tissue massage. It helps recovery from physical activity and keeps the body flexible.
  • Trigger point massage – This concentrates on areas of tight muscle fibers, which form after injury or overuse.
  • Chair massage – This generally focuses on the upper body and is performed on a person who is seated in a portable massage chair.

There is no research to support the benefits of massage for PsA. However, some studies have found massage to be helpful for people with anxiety, fibromyalgia, insomnia, digestive disorders, and soft tissue injuries. Many people also find massage produces feelings of caring, comfort, and connection.1

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the use of thin needles inserted through the skin at strategic points on the body. It is a key part of traditional Chinese medicine and is most often used to treat pain. Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a tool to balance the energy flow or life force, known as qi or chi (pronounced “chee”). In Chinese medicine, this life force energy flows through the body in meridians, or pathways. By using needles at specific points on these meridians, acupuncturists believe it will re-balance the body’s natural energy flow and relieve symptoms of the disease.1,3

There have not been specific studies on the benefits of acupuncture for PsA. However, many studies have shown it can provide pain relief.1,3

What is acupressure?

Like acupuncture, acupressure targets strategic points on the body defined by Chinese medicine. Acupressure uses gentle to firm finger pressure on these points rather than the needles used in acupuncture. The ancient healing practice of acupressure believes there are points on the skin that are especially sensitive to bioelectrical impulses. Stimulation of these points triggers the release of endorphins. These are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that relieve pain. Acupressure helps release muscle tension, promotes circulation, and enhances the body’s life force to aid in healing. It is often used for pain relief.1,4

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: July 2021.