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massage for knee pain

Common Causes of Joint Pain and How Massage Can Help

If your knees hurt, you are not alone. Your knees are two of the hardest working joints in the body—and two of the most vulnerable. Knee pain is common and can be debilitating. But knee problems can be very treatable, and among the most effective of the nonsurgical options is therapeutic massage.

Your knee is a complex structure. It includes three bones: the lower part of the thigh bone, the upper part of the shinbone, and the kneecap. Strong ligaments and tendons hold these bones together, and cartilage under the kneecap cushions and stabilizes the bones. Any damage, inflammation, or imbalance in these structures can cause knee pain. 

Some of the most common causes for knee pain are trauma, muscle strain or sprain, nerve irritation or a pinched nerves, fluid buildup around the knee capsule (also known as bursitis), and tendonitis. Osteoarthritis is the most common of the diseases that affect the knee. It is caused by the wear and tear of knee cartilage through overuse and is more common among those over 50. It may start with a sharp pain during movement. 

If you have hurt your hip, back, or foot, you may feel pain in your knee, because you are holding and moving your body differently without realizing it. Over time, this misalignment puts strain on the muscles and tendons surrounding your knees, often by increasing the weight load on the opposite knee. Resolving stiffness and pain in the injured hip or back can take the pressure off the knee.

Research suggests massage therapy can help with pain levels, stiffness, and overall day-to-day function in individuals dealing with osteoarthritis in their knees. This seems to be especially true in the short term when dealing with a flare-up of pain.

One study found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who received a weekly 60-minute massage for eight weeks had less pain and better daily function in the short-term than those who received standard care.

How does massage help with knee pain? 

During treatment of a sore or arthritic joint, massage can reduce swelling and inflammation, stimulate blood flow to the joint, improve circulation in the leg, and reduce overall pain and stiffness. 

Your therapist will do deeper treatments of the large muscles that stabilize the knee joint by finding and releasing trigger points. A trigger point is a sensitive knot found within bands of muscle and occurs for a number of reasons including injury, surgery, or basic stress and strain. Trigger points cause soreness and pain, often referring pain to other parts of the body away from the location of the trigger point. 

Your massage therapist may also suggest remedial exercise to strengthen these large muscle groups that lend support and stability to the affected knee.  By releasing tightness in the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and tibialis muscles, massage will maintain and increase your flexibility. 

But an effective massage to relieve knee pain is not limited to working on the legs and the knee joint alone. A good RMT will include more general massage treatments, such as relaxation massage techniques across your whole body, in your personalized treatment plan.

That’s because living with pain is stressful, and stress is stored all over the body. When we’re in pain we move less naturally, we contract our muscles to protect the injured area, and the pain can keep us from getting the sleep we need. 

During an effective massage, the heart rate slows, blood pressure drops and the effect of stress hormones is lessened. When your tissues are relaxed, so are you—and your therapist is able to work more deeply and effectively. 

When knee pain needs medical attention

While sore or arthritic knees can benefit from massage, pay attention to signs or symptoms that may suggest a more serious concern. If your pain is new or has recently gotten worse, or if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to visit a doctor:

  • Swelling, warmth, or redness in the knee
  • Knee pain accompanied by a fever
  • Pain in multiple joints
  • Inability to bear weight your leg 
  • Significantly reduced range of motion
  • Knee pain after trauma (such as a fall or car accident)

Get a high-quality massage at an affordable price

If you need massage to treat chronic pain or to help you recover from injury, you probably want to schedule weekly treatments at first, and later maintain the effects by seeing a therapist every two weeks or once a month, but for many people the biggest barrier is price (even if they do have health benefits). 

That’s why the public massage clinics at MH Vicars School are so popular. At only $35 for a one-hour appointment, our student massages make regular massage therapy treatments accessible. Our students treat clients of all ages, professions, and lifestyles. Our “regulars” range from people who had never had a massage before their first visit to Vicars, all the way to people who’ve been getting massages for decades and come to our students in between appointments with their fully trained (and full price) RMT.

Whether you’re a massage newbie or looking to supplement the treatments you get through your benefit plan, regular massages from at our clinic will make a huge difference in your well-being. 

At our Edmonton and Calgary public clinics, you’ll receive massage therapy treatments from our focused and well-trained students at a sharply reduced rate. Your 75-minute appointment includes a comprehensive assessment consultation, a full one-hour massage, and a home care consultation, all for only $35.

If this would be your first massage, take a look at some frequently asked questions about what to expect from your first massage.

You can easily book online * for student clinics at either our Calgary or Edmonton campus. Please note our updated Covid-19 regulations to keep the public, our student therapists, instructors, and supervisors safe. We look forward to seeing you there!