Massage It Out
As fall and cold weather approaches, my arthritic bones start to share their anxiety. I hate the cold—absolutely hate it. I would rather be too hot than too cold. Even in the middle of summer I sleep with the heating blanket on low to keep the chill off.
Last winter wasn’t so bad, but previous cold snaps have stopped me in my tracks. For some reason the circulation in my legs is particularly bad and their joints will be the first and worst offender. They are so sensitive to cold, sometimes they ache in the chill of air-conditioning.
One of my coping mechanisms is a monthly massage. I found a company where I subscribe for a monthly fee and can make an appointment for a treatment. While I go year-round, I find massage especially helpful during the cold winter months.
The beds are heated, so I always ask for it to be turned to maximum so that my bones can roast. They offer a lotion for “achy joints” that I like, but the regular is fine too. Really the best part is how the massage therapist warms my muscles and joints with the pressure and movement. It’s also possible to concentrate on problem areas.
Often I ask for greater attention to my neck and shoulders. I have limited motion in these joints, so when the cold strikes and shrinks my range it is very noticeable to me. When my shoulder is more tense or stuck, my pain increases—creating a vicious cycle of discomfort.
After more than a year of appointments, I have gradually become less sensitive to the massage. This is an improvement, because the more pressure I can tolerate the better the benefits of the massage. Still, I need a lighter touch than most because of my RA and poor circulation in my legs.
Perhaps the greatest improvement has been in my lower back. It is still sensitive, but I’m able to handle more pressure and feel less pain. Since I use a wheelchair and am sitting most of the time, my back can become very stiff and weak, which is bad for my body overall.
During the sessions, I enjoy the massage and the relaxation. Sometimes I do experience discomfort, but unless it is too much, I try to let the therapist work the muscles and joints as hard as possible. Right after and the next day I am sometimes sore and stiff, but this sensation leaves and I then feel more flexible and stronger.
The biggest immediate benefit is the warmth and dissipation of aches from my joints. Sometimes on a cold day this is the best I have felt.
On occasion I have enjoyed a “hot stone” massage during which the therapist places hot stones on my back and uses them to rub during the massage. It takes a certain tolerance for heat to use this treatment, but I think it feels wonderful. I love the sensation of the radiating heat from the stones—dry and comforting on my achy joints.
It took some experimenting to find some massage therapists that I liked, but this is to be expected as everyone’s style is different. Finding the right place and person can be greatly rewarding for enjoying the therapeutic benefits of massage.
Right now, what RA tips would most be helpful for you?