Benefits of Hand Massage for Arthritis

A hand massage provides numerous benefits for people with arthritis including reduced pain and anxiety.

Updated By Linda Rath | Updated April 26, 2023

For some, massage may seem like an unnecessary luxury. But for people with arthritis in their hands and fingers, regular hand massage has been shown to improve strength and reduce pain, anxiety and depression.

In a recent trial,105 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: no treatment, hand massage or Reiki — a form of energy healing used by some large medical centers to promote calm and healing in patients. Results showed that both hand massage and Reiki significantly relieved pain and fatigue in RA patients, with Reiki providing the most relief. 

The study authors note that both therapies, while remarkably effective, are also simple, non-invasive and have no side effects. They say the treatments should be incorporated into nursing education curricula and routine patient care. The problem is that the health care system is overburdened, with too few providers for too many patients. The number of registered nurses in the U.S. decreased by about 100,000 from 2020 to 2021, the steepest drop in 40 year. The nursing shortage is expected to continue for at least another decade, driven in large part by the emotional and physical challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why a decade-old study from the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute is so relevant today. It showed that massage not only can reduce pain but also has positive effects on the immune system and is an effective antidote for sleeplessness. What’s more, you can get most of these benefits with daily self-massage. Here’s how:

Forearm massage. Grip your fingers on the top of your forearm with your thumb on the underside.  Applying moderate pressure, move your massaging hand from your wrist to your elbow and back again, slightly pulling your flesh as you go.

Hand massage. The same technique can be used on your hand by placing your thumb on the top of your hand at your wrist and your index finger underneath. Apply moderate pressure and pull from your wrist and palm to the end of each finger. Give an extra massage to the webbing between your thumb and forefinger — an important acupuncture point for strengthening the immune system.

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