Can Massage, Acupuncture, and Acupressure Help PsA?

Many people with chronic conditions, like psoriatic arthritis, incorporate complementary therapies to manage their symptoms and improve overall well-being. Three of the body therapies that are commonly used by people living with psoriatic arthritis are massage, acupuncture, and acupressure.

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 are:

  • Swedish massage – Swedish massage is the most commonly used massage technique and is a gentle approach mainly used for relaxing and energizing.
  • Deep tissue – Deep tissue massage 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, or to break up scar tissue.
  • Sports massage – Sports massage can be similar to Swedish or deep tissue massage and is used to prevent or recover from athletic injury. Sports massage helps recovery from physical activity and keeps the body flexible.
  • Trigger point massage – Trigger point massage concentrates on areas of tight muscle fibers, which form after injury or overuse.
  • Chair massage – Chair massage generally focuses on the upper body and is performed on a person who is seated in a portable massage chair.1,2

While there is not research to support the benefits of massage for psoriatic arthritis, some studies have found massage to be beneficial for conditions such as anxiety, fibromyalgia, insomnia, digestive disorders, and soft tissue injuries. In addition to the health benefits, many people find massage produces feelings of caring, comfort, and connection.1

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the use of thin needles inserted through the skin at strategic points on the body. It is a key component 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 disease. While there have not been specific studies on the benefits of acupuncture for psoriatic arthritis, numerous studies have shown it can provide pain relief.1,3

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, naturally occurring chemicals in the body that relieve pain. Acupressure’s benefits include releasing muscle tension, promoting circulation, and enhancing the body’s life force to aid in healing. It is often used for pain relief.1,4

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: October 2016.
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