Can you massage your joint to break down crystals?

Gout Support Home Page Forums Please Help My Gout! Gout Treatment Can you massage your joint to break down crystals?


This topic contains 14 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Keith Taylor (GoutPal Admin) Keith Taylor (GoutPal Admin) 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    Avatar of davidk

    [Admin Summary: Original post starts below]

    Gout Massage

    This gout massage topic is now closed. Please see why gout massage is bad for gout.

    That article reviews the key points of massage for gout. For a more complete view of all treatments that can help gout, please browse the gout treatment guidelines.

    If you still have questions about gout massage therapy, then please start a new discussion. I highly recommend you read the gout guidelines, first.

    I find soaking my toes in a hot bath brings some relief.  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?Confused

    Along these same lines, I saw links here or somewhere else on the internet about “gout exercise”, but never could find the actual info.  My toes have been swelled up and mostly unable to bend for 8 weeks now and sometimes I wonder if some of the stiffness is from atrophy of the muscles as much as it is from crystals.  I try to move them around some but the gout pain limits me.  Is there a point where you should be trying to move the joints or massage them or anything?  (Some days I can't put any weight on either big toe; some days, I can put some weight, but cannot bend the toe up – meaning, the very last part of the step when walking is too painful, so I use a cane and take short steps and walk with a stiff/straight back and most of my weight on my heels).

    I'm on UA lowering meds as well as colchicine for the short term and know I need those meds to actually cure the gout, but wondering if this massaging can also add any benefit while I work to get the UA levels down and the crystals and tophi dissolving.  (I'm on high dose prednisone and low dose colchicine (can't tolerate more than .3 mg 2 x / day) and that seems to keep the edge off the extreme toe pain, but I haven't been able to get the pain and swelling down enough to walk even close to normal and this has been every day for 8 weeks now). (Just started on the UA  a week ago and seeing a rheumatologist in a week for the first time, so I am pretty hopeful it will get better over the coming weeks).

    Avatar of zip2play

    I like the idea of hot water soaks becasue urate is much more soluble at higher temperatures. Probably heavy socks and gloves for sleeping is wise to prevent the extremities chilling overnight.

    As for massaging the joints…I think it might be a bad idea because, no, you will not break up crystals, but, yes, you might break up their covering, expose many, and get a worse attack. Tendons inflamed by uric acid and the immune system attack really need to be treated gently.

    The UPSIDE of your attack is that if it were in the full fury of podagra you wouldn't be able to TOUCH you toes, much less wiggle them around.Wink

    I hope the UA lowering med kicks in for you soon.

    Avatar of Tavery

    Massaging causes more problems than it helps.

    The problems with massaging are:

    1. Uric crystals are sharp pointy spear shapes. Massaging them means pushing those spears into the surrounding tissue causing inflamation and tiny but physical damage.
    2. Uric crystals are sharp pointy spear shapes. Massaging the crystals will also cause them to break apart into smaller pieces and form a compacted mass of crystals that prevent bloodflow from getting to them. (i.e. slower to dissolve
    3. Check out a picture of what uric acid crystals look like… Uric Acid Crystals Picture

    Heat therapy is a more debatable topic – though I fall on the “for” side of the debate. Sitting in a hot tub or soaking your feet in a hot foot bath can cause crystals to dissolve since you only have to raise the internal temperature a couple degrees to make them soluable.

    Upside: Crystals dissolve. Increased bloodflow helps move the liquid uric acid out of the area. If your uric acid level is low then it can help flush it from your system.

    Downside: Crystals reform when your temp returns to normal. Increased bloodflow can also help the uric acid delve deeper into joints and other areas. Can cause a flareup if your uric acid suddenly spikes higher.

    If you are Allopurinol and your normal level is sub-5.0 then doing regular heat therapy might help eliminate the lingering crystals in your joints. My personal unexpert opinion is that 20-30 minutes in the jacuzzi every couple days is not only relaxing, but helps my gout.

    Avatar of davidk

    Thanks Zip and Tavery. I appreciate the sound advice.  Jacuzzi soaks stay in; massaging is out.  I also ice my feet a couple times a day and that helps relieve pain quite a bit.

    Avatar of trev

    It might be worth trying 1/2 cup of Soda bicarb &/or Epsom Salts in the soak water.

    I've found this helpful and the water can be kept in the bowl for re-use in short spells- even if at room temp.

    Avatar of odo

    davidk said:

    Thanks Zip and Tavery. I appreciate the sound advice.  Jacuzzi soaks stay in; massaging is out.  I also ice my feet a couple times a day and that helps relieve pain quite a bit.

    Yeah, icing definitely a bad idea; as you know, the effect is only temporary and you're more likely to make things worse by forming new crystals which don't dissolve when your feet return to normal temperature Surprised

    Avatar of zip2play


    I am definitely anti-icing as well. Heat is the gouty's friend.


    I appreciate the reminder about the perils of icing. I believe I’ve updated all my gout treatment pages to reflect the issues of temperature, but if you spot anything I’ve missed, please let me know

    Now all we need to do is get the authorities to rethink their advice!

    Avatar of davidk

    thank you all for your excellent advice.  I really did not want to hear that I should not be using ice.  I'd been using it a couple times a day for weeks and getting good temporary relief.  In fact, I had my two ice packs in hand and was heading up to bed when I decided to check any new posts on gout-pal.  But you guys on gout pal have had nothing but good advice, so I put the ice back and put heat on my toes.  Nothing but heat for the last couple days.  I also recently started on Uloric and have dropped from 9.1 UA to 4.4 in just two weeks of Uloric 40mg.  Smile  Toes are feeling a little better today than they have in weeks and I'm very encouraged.  Thanks!

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