Massage therapy is becoming an increasingly popular, and scientifically proven, option for older adults to maintain wellness and improve quality of life as we age. The fastest growing population in the U.S. is Americans age 65 and older, numbering 39.6 million, or 13% our country's population. That number is expected to rise to over 72 million seniors, almost 20% of the total population, by 2030! As the number of aging Americans grows, there will be an increasing need to meet the special health needs of our senior citizens.
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. Facts About Aging and Senior Health
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 takesbetween 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 Proves the Benefits of Massage Therapy for Older Adults
Massage produces significant therapeutic effects onbalance, 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 therapyreduces inflammation of acutely damaged skeletal muscle. The study found evidence at thecellular 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.
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 toreduce 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. Adapting Massage Therapy to the Special Needs of the Elderly
"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. Our massage clinic is equipped with an electric table that can easily adjust for your comfort and safety. 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. Talk to Your Doctor About Massage Therapy
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! Resources:
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.