The Benefits of Senior Massage Therapy & What To Expect
Everyone can benefit from massage therapy but massage therapy is especially helpful to the senior population as it is very low risk, gentle and effective at both treating pain and discomfort and improving muscle and soft tissue health as we age.
As we age, our bodies naturally start to slow down in all respects from rates of cellular turnover and metabolism to our nervous system’s ability to respond to external stimuli, leading to increase risk of falls and injury. In this article we will explore how massage therapy can help to support the natural process of aging, as well as how it can be an effective treatment for painful injuries.
The Aging Process:
As we age our bodies go through changes. We begin to lose our muscle mass, our hearts are working harder, our blood pressure can become irregular, our bones become less dense, and let’s face it our minds begin to suffer as well (1). All of these changes also take a toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Often our bodies become achy and stiff, our joints swell, and moving our bodies becomes increasingly chore-like. Massage therapy can help with the changes that come with age.
Benefits of Senior Massage:
Massage therapy helps to promote relaxation through a safe, caring touch. With the increased relaxation that massage provides, massage helps your body by
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Lowering your heart rate
- Decreasing the production of stress causing hormones such as cortiso
- Increasing endorphins that help to positively support your mental and emotional well- being.
While manipulating the soft tissues of the body, we are increasing the circulation of oxygen and nutrient- rich blood and lymph, while relaxing the muscles. With increased circulation comes improved tissue function, in-turn helping the tissues to let go of waste. A main waste product of muscular metabolism is called Lactic Acid. Lactic Acid is the product that causes our muscles to feel stiff, which when our blood flow is diminished through the muscles, stays in the muscles, leading to the stiff sensation. Massage therapy gently increases blood flow through the muscles to allow the lactic acid to flush out of the muscle, into the blood stream and be excreted from the body through bodily waste, leading to less muscular stiffness. Massage therapy, again through increasing circulation of blood through the body, also increases absorption of nutrients, and reduces swelling.
There are also many benefits that stem from physically manipulating the soft tissues of the body. Physically manipulating the soft tissues helps to release nerve compression between layers of tight muscles, releases muscular spasms, trigger points and shortened and/or lengthened muscles that could be causing discomfort (2).
What to expect from a Senior Massage Therapy Visit:
While massage benefits people of all ages in similar ways, your therapist will ask health history questions to better tailor the treatment to your needs. We will ask about medications you may be taking, as certain medications can alter pain perception or create muscular or soft tissue changes. We will ask about recent or past falls or injuries can contribute to your current aches and pains, as well as screen for any health conditions, and any skin conditions. It is important to always be honest when answering health history questions to ensure your therapist can treat you in the safest most effective manor (3).
One of the best gifts you can provide an aging loved one is the referral or recommendation of massage therapy as part of their lifestyle as they age, to allow them to “age gracefully”- literally with improved mobility or as a low risk, gentle and effective therapy following a slip, fall or other injury.
If you have any questions about how senior massage therapy may help you or a loved one live a more complete or pain-free life, please give one of our clinics a call and we will be glad to assist.
1. Bazemore, Nichole. “Aging: What’s Normal and What Can You Do about It?” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/normal-aging.
2. “How Does Massage Work?” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-does-massage-work.
3. Silver, Natalie. “Geriatric Massage: Benefits, Considerations, Cost & More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 May 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/geriatric-massage.