Arthritis Feels Like …

Stiffness, aching joints, losing strength and movement: all hallmarks of “Ol’ Arthur” coming to visit. Over 50 million Americans live with arthritis. The most prevalent form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, occurs when the lining at the end of a bone thins. This leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, inflexibility, diminished strength, and decreased mobility.

Many people use therapeutic massage as a method of easing the chronic pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Although massage cannot reverse or cure arthritis, it can help relax the muscles that tighten around the joints, which eases pain. Many people also use massage to maintain their flexibility. In some cases, people use therapeutic massage to help manage their symptoms when they plan to get joint replacement surgery, but have to postpone.

The team and Nimbus has experience working with clients who have osteoarthritis. Many of our member have arthritis has a primary or secondary reason for seeking massage. When working with people who have arthritis, we take a gentle yet targeted approach around the affected joints. We tailor our techniques to each person’s goals – maintain flexibility, pain relief, pre-hab for surgery – and work with each person to individualize a program that works for them.

Before Your Massage

Some things to discuss with your therapist about when you come in for massage as a treatment for osteoarthritis:

  • Your treatment goals.
  • Details of your condition including its onset, symptoms, and severity.
  • How your condition is progressing.
  • Your past history of massage.
  • Other conditions you may experience.
  • Any medications you take and their side effects.

Knowing these things will help your massage therapist plan your session or program.

During Your Massage

During your massage, your therapist may use a blend of techniques depending on your goals.

  • Pain Relief: Find knots and tight areas and apply pressure, add heat, add soothing techniques.
  • Relieving Tension: Apply slow gliding to taut areas, add heat, apply pressure to relax muscle fibers.
  • Maintaining flexibility: Gently move the joint, gentle stretching, find and relax tight muscles.
  • Pre-hab for surgery: Lighter massage to manage stress and anxiety, stimulate lymph flow, and to maintain the  muscles.

The massage therapist will work with you to find a pressure that feels comfortable to you. We typically recommend a moderate pressure that feels comfortable but therapeutic. If anything during the session causes you pain, let the therapist know so they can adjust what they are doing. Massage is not a “no pain, no gain” type of therapy.

After Your Massage

After your session you should feel better. Mild soreness the next day sometimes happens if you have not had much massage. However, let your therapist know if you experience this so they can ease the pressure the next time. Many people find using moist heat, such as an aromatherapy pillow or a long shower, helps enhance the effects of the massage.

Generally speaking, massage work best for people who have mild to moderate cases of osteoarthritis. Although an experienced practitioner can also help people with more advanced cases. If you have a severe joint instability, the treatment focuses more on soothing and pain relief and less on changing the muscle tissue. In severe cases, we recommend checking with your rheumatologist or primary-care provider to make sure they approve of massage for your condition.

If you experience pain, stiffness, inflexibility or other symptoms related to osteoarthritis, massage may be a wonderful addition to your toolbox of ways to ease and manage your condition.

To delve deeper into the topic check out the Arthritis Foundation website section on massage.


Low back pain hurts and can result in pain when trying to stand up or shift position. Aching while trying to sleep. Trouble with bending or lifting.

Low back pain is the most common cause of missed time from work— it affects up to 80% of adults in the US at some point and can be completely incapacitating.

Many factors contribute to back pain including muscular injury, postural irregularities, obesity, problems with the spinal column and discs, and nerve problems. In some cases, no one culprit becomes evident– termed non-specific chronic low back pain. Despite its prevalence, low back pain remains a frustrating malady to treat.

Massage for Low Back Pain

Fortunately, for many people, massage can help ease low back pain. Although research has only just begun to support the efficacy of massage, the evidence that exists suggests both relaxation and therapeutic massage can reduce low back pain. In fact, recent medical guidelines list massage as a go-to therapy for low back pain. The team at Nimbus has helped countless people with their low back pain over the years. If muscular tension or injury has led to the pain, many people find relief in a few short sessions. For underlying factors that will not go away (arthritis, scoliosis, etc…) many manage their pain with ongoing treatments. Here is a list of some causes of back pain and some observations from the Nimbus staff about how massage may or may not help.

Massage may be most helpful for resolving pain or other symptoms in a short series of sessions:

– Muscular pain with recent onset.

– Nerve entrapment (by a muscle) with recent onset– including sciatica.

– Recent injury, sprain, or strain.

Massage may be very helpful for the following cases, however it may take a longer series of sessions:

– Chronic muscular pain.

– Nerve entrapment (by a muscle) that has been on-going– including sciatica.

– Past injury, sprain, or strain.

– Pain from postural or repetitive motion stress.

– Non-specific low back pain.

– SI Joint Dysfunction.

– Tendonitis.

– Piriformis Syndrome.

Massage may be helpful for relieving pain or other symptoms, but will not resolve the underlying issue:

– Arthritis including Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Spinal Stenosis.

– Fibromyalgia.

– Scoliosis.

– Degenerative or other disc diseases.

– Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Massage may not be helpful depending on the level of nerve vs. muscular involvement, may help pain or other symptoms:

– Ruptured disc.

– Nerve impingement (by bone)– including sciatica.

– As always, talk to your healthcare provider about your condition, and seek medical help for distressing, severe, or chronic pain.

What to expect during a massage

As with any complex condition, the treatment plan your massage therapist would suggest for your particular case will vary. The therapist will ask many questions concerning your pain, overall health, and history of massage and then discuss a plan with you. In some cases, the therapist may recommend a flowing massage using techniques to elicit relaxation and calm stress. A Massage for Stress & Anxiety can help back pain, and is a good fit for people who do not like structural massage. In other cases the therapist may recommend a more structural approach. If the pain just started recently, this would fall under the Massage for Aches & Pains category. For pain that has lasted more than three months, the Massage for Chronic Pain would be appropriate.  In either of these cases, the therapist may employ firm pressure to tender muscles; vigorous strokes to loosen stuck muscle fibers; sustained moderate pressure to ease taut areas; stretching and movement to move a nerve or muscle; and many more techniques. Depending on what you list as your symptoms, the therapist may check muscles in areas other than your low back including your legs, buttocks, and abdomen.

Home Care

You can also take steps to ease your pain at home. The American College of Physicians recently came out with a list of recommended approaches to easing back pain. Some examples of therapies you can use at home include the following. Apply heat, especially moist heat, like one of our Mother Earth Pillows or a soak. Engage in exercise, tai chi, or yoga. Try mindfulness techniques or progressive relaxation. You can also do self-massage at home with your hands or a gadget such as a trigger point tool or foam roller.

If low back pain hampers your daily living, massage and a good home care program, could help you get your pain under control, naturally.



Throbbing, aching, pounding, stabbing, squeezing … we do not want these things done to our heads! Headaches and migraines can make us want to make the whole world disappear. For those of us who struggle with chronic or recurring headaches, well, it just plain sucks.
Many massage clients who suffer from tension/muscular headaches and migraines indicate that regular massage reduces the frequency and severity of their symptoms. Sometimes, it can also diminish the pain associated with an active headache. Massage is particularly good at helping if there is a stress or muscular component.
When working to alleviate headaches, massage therapists work through the muscles of the scalp, jaw, face, neck, shoulders, and upper back to find and relieve trigger points, taut bands, and tight areas. Your therapist may also blend in general relaxation work, aromatherapy, craniosacral therapy, heat or cold, or stretches to help get you back into shape.
Some common culprits leading to headaches include stress, TMJ, poor posture, trigger points in the neck and shoulders, sinus pressure, vascular issues, and nerve issues. Massage therapists learn techniques designed to work directly or indirectly on most of these underlying causes.
A medical study on massage for migraines seems to support the anecdotal evidence with positive preliminary results. Participants reported reduced frequency of migraine following massage (plus improved sleep). One preliminary study on massage for tension type headaches (TTH) found that Trigger Points “are important components in the treatment of TTH…” but that the placebo also led to people feeling better. Other studies (according to Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual by Travell & Simons) have found similar conclusions and have further linked some migraines, and other types of headaches, to Trigger Points.
Not all headaches are created equal. The ones that, so far, seem to have the best chance at responding to massage include: tension headache, migraine, TMJ-related headache, and cervicogenic headache. In our experience working with people with each of these types of headaches, we have seen good results in lessening the frequency and severity of headache-related pain. Typically, a series or regular routine of massage has a better chance at helping people with chronic headaches.
We can work with you to see if massage or a massage program can work for you.

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