One of the most popular gout topics is massage and gout.
It started with a forum member asking:
A couple times I have massaged the toe joint and it felt like perhaps I was able to break up the crystals a bit. Not sure if that can really happen or if I imagined it. So, my questions are: 1) can you really break down the crystals by manually massaging the joint? 2) if so, should you? Would that help break it down and assist in the process? Or, is it doing more harm than good?
Inevitably, as forum discussions tend to do, there is talk of supporting the gout massage with hot baths, which in turn leads to a discussion of what to put in the bathwater. But this misses the fundamental question: is massage good gout relief, or will massaging gout cause more problems?
Firstly, as with any aspect of gout treatment, your first call should be to your doctor. Your doctor is the only person qualified to assess your individual medical status, and likely response to massage.
Following that, I would like to move on to general advice about gout and massage, backed up by references to scientific studies. Unfortunately, there are none. Of course, if you know of something I have missed, please tell me in the gout forum. I have seen some general advice about massage and inflammation, but before I explain that, let me explore one aspect of gout that is commonly misleading – sharp uric acid crystals.
Gout Massage & Uric Acid Crystals
A point was raised that massaging a gouty joint could cause damage from sharp uric acid crystals. Uric acid crystals, when seen through a microscope, are appropriately described as pointed, needle-like, or sharp. Whilst this is true, the shape is irrelevant. Gout is caused by an immune system response to invading uric acid crystals, in a similar way to the response to invading viruses or bacteria. You can see this in action if you use the box above to search for white blood cells. There you will see that, at this microscopic level, shape does not matter. Cells are not punctured by sharp crystals. Cells will engulf invaders of any shape, but can only deal with one (maybe two). If they meet more, they call for reinforcements, and that triggers the inflammation and pain that we feel.
Gout Massage & Inflammation
Every professional massage guideline that I have seen says that massage should be avoided completely if there is any inflammation anywhere in the body. However, I raised this safety issue with a doctor who recommended gout massage. He gave me a better explanation of different types of massage. You can see this explanation in Massage for Gout Relief guidelines.
Gout Massage: Next Steps
You can see that, with appropriate professional guidance, massage is bad for gout.
If you are unsure, you can see other non-medication treatments in the Gout Relief Guidelines.
Leave Gout Massage to read Massage for Gout Relief guidelines