Massage therapy’s benefits in the areas of both pain relief and depression alleviation could be used by those with rheumatoid arthritis.

More than 1.3 million adults in the U.S. suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, with 75 percent of those afflicted being women.

New research indicates people who have rheumatoid arthritis—which causes pain, stiffness, swelling and deterioration of joints—are twice as likely to be depressed as people in the general population.

Researchers at Nagoya City University and Nagoya University Graduate Schools of Medicine in Japan studied the interrelationship between levels of depression symptoms, C-reactive protein (CRP) level and pain, confirming a significant positive association between depressive symptoms and CRP level in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

According to this study, the inflammation and depression each independently increased the likelihood of severe pain. The combined effects of high CRP levels and depression predicted severe pain even more strongly.

Massage therapy has been shown to benefit arthritis sufferers; researchers at the Touch Research Institutes (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida, for example, found that massage is effective in reducing hand pain and increasing grip strength.

Several studies have shown a link between massage therapy and decreased depression among new mothers, menopausal women, pregnant women and cancer patients.

One TRI study, for example, found massage eases anxiety and depression, as well as leg and back pain, in depressed pregnant women.