While there are no typical 70 year olds, there are many age-related conditions that can be improved with a weekly half-hour massage. Research has shown that even people living with chronic conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, experience benefits in the skilled hands of a massage therapist.
- 4 in 5 (80%) of elderly people will battle at least one chronic, limiting condition or illness, such as heart disorders, arthritis, or osteoporosis
- 90% of Americans aged 55+ are at risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure
- 23% (12.2 million) of Americans over age 60 are affected by diabetes
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia, and Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls, and falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65+
Many of these conditions are often managed with dependency on multiple medications, many with dangerous side effects. The average person over 65 takes between two and seven prescription medications daily. According to the CDC, people 65 and older have double the risk of having to go to the emergency room because of reactions to drugs. Massage therapy has been shown to be a safe and effective alternative.
- Research supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) showed that sixty minute sessions of Swedish massage once a week for those with osteoarthritis of the knee significantly reduced their pain.
- Massage produces significant therapeutic effects on balance, neurological and cardiovascular outcomes in older adults. In 2012, the results of a two-part study conducted collaboratively by researchers at Auburn University and Samford University in Alabama were published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
- Research through the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario indicates that massage therapy reduces inflammation of acutely damaged skeletal muscle. The study found evidence at the cellular level that massage therapy may affect inflammation in a way similar to anti-inflammatory medications.
- Research indicates that massage can decrease postoperative pain. Postoperative pain can complicate and delay a patient’s recovery, lengthen hospital stays and costs, and interfere with a patient’s return to activities of daily living. For many people, pain medications can have unpleasant side effects.
- Other studies have shown that massage therapy can improve immune function in cancer patients.
What some may think of as a simple “back rub” is actually a powerful therapeutic tool, backed up by sound science. Even a gentle massage has a proven effect on blood circulation and the nervous system, with many positive implications for today's elderly.
The numerous ways in which massage supports natural health may even enable physicians to reduce medications. Most seniors are on multiple medications for numerous conditions. Many of these medications can have dangerous side effects and interactions. Massage therapy can benefit multiple conditions at once, safely.
The risk of falling is a major health concern among the elderly. Because falls can lead to even more serious concerns, including the loss of functioning associated with independent living, massage therapy be a powerful ally in maintaining independence. Massage therapy can help maintain balance and mobility, as it helps strengthen muscles weakened by disuse and reduces pain and stiffness in the hips, knees and shoulder joints.
Not only does massage ease muscle and joint pain, it also reduces stress and symptoms of depression, which often increase in old age. Massage therapy can also provide comfort to touch-deprived elderly patients, which can have a profound effect on health.
Another benefit of massage for elderly patients is the use of oils and lotions. While these are generally used by the therapist to facilitate the massage, lotions moisturize and benefit the skin.
Massage therapy is a non-invasive, enjoyable way to help alleviate the symptoms of many age-related diseases and can significantly improve a person's quality of life.
"Geriatric massage" is a form of massage designed to meet the specific needs of the elderly population. Geriatric massage is often much the same as a typical Swedish massage session, but with a few considerations:
- Sessions tend to be shorter, for client comfort. A 30 minute session is often a good amount of time.
- Massage techniques tend to be more gentle, with a light touch for sensitive skin.
- Positions and bolstering are adapted to client comfort and mobility.
- Extra consideration is made regarding medications and contraindications.
- Sometimes, it is easier for the therapist to visit the home, hospital, or nursing facility of the client.
Massage doesn't have to be full-body, clothes-off ordeal for those with mobility or modesty concerns. You decide how much clothing to wear. Many techniques are just as effective with clothing on. Even just a gentle massage of the hands and feet can go a long way toward improving circulation, relieving pain and stiffness, and improving mood.
Our Light Touch Therapy sessions incorporate a variety of gentle, effective techniques such as myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, CranialSacral therapy, reflexology, reiki and energy balancing, and aromatherapy. These sessions can be performed while remaining fully clothed, with or without oils and lotions. Everybody is different, and every massage session is customized to each individual's needs.
Some tips for a Successful Massage Therapy Appointment:
- If possible, fill out your Intake Forms in advance, or bring a list of medications and concerns.
- Bring a family member to ensure a comfortable and relaxing experience, and possibly provide assistance.
- Wear comfortable, easy to change clothing.
- Speak up--be sure to give your therapist feedback throughout your massage.
By having a conversation first, you and your massage therapist will discuss the best options to incorporate into your massage therapy session. Here are some more Tips to Make the Most of Your Massage and answers to more FAQ's.
Massage therapy is generally a safe and effective treatment, but there may be times when massage is not appropriate, or when modifications are required. If you do have a serious or chronic health condition, you should receive permission from your physician to proceed with massage. Be sure to seek out a reputable massage therapist with advanced training in geriatric massage.
When in doubt, ask your doctor whether you or a loved one might benefit from a massage. In some cases, health insurance or flexible spending accounts will reimburse massage therapy. Check to see if your policy covers massage therapy. With growing research proving the many benefits, integrating massage therapy into your wellness strategy may mean a significant boost to your health!
Massage Therapy for Improvements in Balance, Neurological, and Cardiovascular Measures in Older Adults
Sefton, J. M., Yarar, C., & Berry, J. W. (2012). Six weeks of massage therapy produces changes in balance, neurological, and cardiovascular measures in older adults. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 5 (3), 28-40
Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Massage Significantly Reduces Pain
Massage Therapy for Inflammation
Massage Therapy for Decreasing Stress in Cancer Patients
Keir SM and Saling JR. Pilot study of the impact of massage therapy on sources and levels of distress in brain tumor patients. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 2012; 2:363-36.
Massage Therapy for Reduced Pain, Anxiety and Muscular Tension in Cardiac Surgery Patients
Massage Therapy Benefits Alzheimer's Patients
Rowe, M. & Alfred, D. (1999). The effectiveness of slow-stroke massage in diffusing agitated behaviors in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Gerontology and Nursing, 25, 22-34.
National Vital Statistics Report
What Seniors Need to Know About Medications