But for the elderly, massage therapy can do much more than bring relaxation to tired muscles: it can help alleviate chronic pain and assist in maintaining and rebuilding the nervous system.
For older adults, pain is an all-too-common problem. According to the National Pain Foundation, getting out of pain for older adults, in particular those in long term care facilities, often means taking powerful prescription pain killers that don’t always help and can have unintended side effects.
Massage therapy, one of the oldest forms of healing touch, has recently been integrated into nursing homes to help patients with pain related to osteoarthritis and peripheral artery disease, as well as to manage symptoms of anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Geriatric massage practitioners will often spend more time on the hands and feet rather than having clients lie on a massage table. Hand or foot massage enhances body awareness and sensation, improves circulation, decreases muscular stiffness and helps decrease inflammation in joints, tendons and bursa sacs. By invigorating the whole circulatory system, massage also helps with conditions such as asthma and emphysema.
But the benefits of massage therapy for older adults are more than skin deep. For depressed seniors or those in long term care facilities (where a sense of isolation and loneliness are all too prevalent), the joy of human touch is critical to healing. Careful massage can help provide the elderly with symptomatic relief and enables seniors to extend the vitality in their lives.
According to an October 1, 2003 article in the journal Nursing Homes,
“Massage therapy benefits the elderly not only by relieving pain, but also by protecting their overall well-being. It maintains and rebuilds the nervous system's response to stimuli, enabling seniors to resist physical and mental declines. In particular, elders with Alzheimer's disease respond well to massage therapy as another form of communication and as a source of strength and intimacy.”
To find a massage therapy practitioner who specializes in massage for seniors, contact the American Massage Therapy Association.