The Benefits of Therapeutic Massage for Senior Citizens

Complementary medicine, including massage therapy, is becoming increasingly popular among senior citizens.  The results of a recent survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association showed a threefold increase in the percentage of older adults who received massage therapy within the last year.  More than 40 percent of those surveyed said that they use massage therapy to treat health conditions. 

Most people experience a rise in aches and pains as they grow older, and range of motion begins to decrease.  Depression is also on the rise in older adults, which can be a result of lifestyle changes as well as an increased sense of isolation.  Geriatric massage employs particular techniques that aid in pain management, improved stability and muscle tone and an enhanced sense of emotional well-being.

Geriatric massage uses a gentle approach, and can be performed with the client lying down or seated in a wheelchair.  Special attention is given to the hands and feet, improving circulation and creating a heightened sense of body awareness. Massage encourages natural joint lubrication, which reduces pain from conditions such as arthritis.

Senior massage is beneficial for a number of conditions, including poor posture, which results from muscle tension.  Massage improves muscle tone and has a positive impact on muscle strength and coordination.  This results in improved stability, which in turn helps to reduce the occurrence of injuries due to falls arising from loss of balance. 

Disruption in normal sleep patterns, inability to sleep through the night and insomnia are common complaints among the elderly.  Massage has been proven to be beneficial in triggering the relaxation response and has been lauded as an effective treatment for insomnia.  As we age, it is crucial to receive consistent, restorative sleep.  Chronic lack of rest can have detrimental effects on mood, cognitive abilities and immune system function.  A gentle massage performed in regular intervals can reduce the need for prescription sleeping aids.

The power that therapeutic touch has on the emotional state of the client is undeniable.  Many seniors experience feelings of isolation and increased levels of anxiety as they undergo lifestyle changes and begin to experience the deaths of close friends and family members.  It is often difficult for an elderly person to accept their own physical limitations that make it difficult or even impossible to perform the activities that brought them a lifetime of enjoyment.  This causes a rise in anxiety and depression, often adding to a senior’s existing feelings of isolation.  A gentle, caring touch can convey feelings of intimacy, empathy and can foster a deep connection between client and caregiver.

A study by the American Public Health Association (APHA) concluded that senior citizens who were given therapeutic massage experienced improvement in vitality, anxiety, depression, positive well-being and general health.  These results were found in both independent and community dwelling adults.  Moreover, the simple comfort that human contact conveys can be a cherished occasion for seniors who experience depression and loneliness.  Geriatric massage is indeed an important tool to enhance the health and well-being of our aging loved ones.

Brandon Thomas is a nationally certified massage therapist and founder of JoyLife Therapeutics. JoyLife Therapeutics provides chair massage, corporate massage, office massage, special event and trade show massage throughout the US.

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