Massage has changed quite a bit as it has grown in popularity over the past few decades. No longer just Swedish massages, massage therapists now use a variety of techniques, including things like hot stones and stretching, to tailor a massage to meet the needs of each individual client. As massage techniques have developed, so has research about the benefits of massage. The research has shown that massage therapy has a multitude of benefits for people of all ages, and can be especially beneficial to the senior population.
Benefits of Massage Therapy for the Elderly
Massage therapy has also been shown to have positive impacts on the nervous and circulatory systems, both of which become more vulnerable as we age. Improving blood flow improves proprioception – the sense of the relative position of the body parts. This helps improve balance which limits the risk of falling. When the nervous system is stimulated during a massage, it produces the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine. The presence of these hormones will provide a sense of calm and help the massagee relax. Due to chronic illness, change, and just growing older, many elderly adults feel stress that can be lessened with massage therapy.
In addition to increased blood flow, stimulating the happy hormones and helping relieve stress, there are still more benefits of massage for the elderly. Massage can soften hard muscles and tissues. Softening the muscles will increase the range of motion and flexibility of the senior adult, which will help them get around, participate in exercise which can help them stay healthy, and even reduce the risk of a fall. Massages can also relieve the pain from arthritis.
Hand and Foot Massage for the Elderly
If a full body massage is not your thing, you can consider a hand or foot massage instead. While it is more limited, it is still touch, which is beneficial to the elderly. Massage Today notes, “elders report that touch communicates safety, care, reassurance and makes them feel more trust in caregivers.” So massages on smaller areas like hands and feet are still useful.
Foot massages for the elderly have shown positive reactions in patients with dementia. A foot massage can alleviate anxiety, ease pain and discomfort, and communicate support and comfort. Hand massages show the same sort of reactions, including helping calm agitated patients.
As always, consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before adding something new to your healthcare routine. But don’t be afraid to seek out a massage from a qualified massage therapist. They are knowledgeable, compassionate, and can likely provide you with more help and relief than you think.