Completed Projects

Title: Exploring Massage Benefits for ARthritis of the Knee (EMBARK)
Status: Completed
Topic: Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health/NCCAM grant to Duke University. Sites included Duke University, Yale-Griffin PRC, and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (later the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, NJ)
Funding Period: 2009-2014
Study Design: Multi-site, randomized, dose-ranging trial
  • 2009-2011 study: to determine the optimal dose of massage for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. 
  • 2011-2014 study: to verify the efficacy of 8 weeks of Swedish massage, at an optimized dose, and assess a maintenance dose, for reducing pain and increasing function compared to an active (light touch bodywork) control, and passive (usual care) control, in adults with OA of the knee.
Further Study Details:

Validated instruments, including standardized questionnaires known as the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), were used to assess pain, stiffness, flexibility, and physical function of the joints.


The 2009-2011 study found that a 60-minute massage offered once a week over an 8-week period was most effective and practical, compared to 60 minutes twice a week, or 30 minutes once or twice a week, thus establishing a standard for future trials. The 2011-2014 study found that all groups (Swedish massage, light touch bodywork, and usual care) improved with regard to outcome measures, with the massage group showing greater improvement than the others. At 8 weeks, the massage group saw a significantly greater reduction in WOMAC global scores than did the light touch and usual care groups. In the massage group, large initial improvements were maintained among those who received maintenance treatment. By 52 weeks, improvement was seen in all groups, but any improvement differences between the groups were no longer statistically significant.  I.e., all groups showed comparable improvement in the long run.


Adults aged 35 years or older with confirmed osteoarthritis of the knee as diagnosed by x-ray

Changed at: 3/2/2017 7:05 AM Changed by: Lisa Seaberg
Created at: 8/31/2010 9:55 AM Created by: Griffin Hospital