For older adults experiencing sadness and pain, massage may be an effective, one-for-two solution.

About 50 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That figure is expected to rise as the wave of baby boomers crests into old age.

Past research has shown massage therapy benefits people with knee osteoarthritis, in terms of decreasing pain and increasing flexibility; and massage reduces hand-arthritis pain and increases grip strength.

New research shows depression can worsen knee arthritis symptoms in older adults.

The study included 660 men and women aged 65 years or older who were evaluated for the severity of their knee arthritis on X-rays, as well as symptom severity. Patient interviews and questionnaires were used to assess coincident depressive disorders.

“The results of this study indicate that depression can play a major role in the way patients experience the symptoms of knee arthritis, and that even when X-rays show the arthritis is not severe, patients with depression may report significant pain,” said Tae Kyun Kim, M.D., study author and director of the Division of Knee Surgery and Sports Medicine at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital’s Joint Reconstruction Center.

“When evaluating the results of this study, the contribution of depression to knee osteoarthritis symptoms was almost as important as the damage indicated on X-rays,” Kim noted.

Massage therapy has also been found, in prior research, to decrease depression while boosting mood and a sense of relaxation.

The current study ran in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Related articles:

Research Review Shows Massage Therapy Effectively Addresses Symptoms of Depression

Massage Helps Knee Osteoarthritis

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