The rapidly growing population of older adults is increasingly turning to massage therapy as part of their integrated care to help reduce aches and pains, chronic pain, and other health issues.
In fact, the 18th annual American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Consumer Survey, conducted in July 2014, found that approximately 9 million people over the age of 55 had a total of 39 million massages in the previous 12 months. The primary reason: medical purposes. This includes pain relief, soreness/stiffness, and injury recovery.
These numbers show that massage is not just a luxury, but an effective form of treatment for many in the growing elder population. Massage therapy can help seniors get back to enjoying their everyday lives by aiding in the following areas.
Massage for Chronic Pain in Older Adults
According to the AMTA, chronic pain is generally underreported in the elderly population due to a negative stigma. Many also consider chronic pain to simply be a part of aging, although it’s a highly treatable health issue that can severely impact one’s lifestyle by disrupting sleep, daily routines, and social activities.
Incorporating massage into care routines of older adults has been shown to help treat chronic pain, particularly in joints like the shoulder or knee. Another important benefit of massage for seniors is improved stability and posture, which in turn aids in decreasing falls.
Eldercare & Hospice Facilities Turn to Massage
Studies have shown that even a brief massage can reduce agitation behavior in adults living with dementia, such as physical expressions of pacing and wandering. The benefits of massage therapy for the elderly are becoming increasingly clear, so it’s no wonder many elder care residences are incorporating massage into their care programs.
Many hospices now employ massage therapists as research shows that it improves the quality of life and decreases pain. In fact, many hospices are employing massage therapists because of the clinical benefits massage has been shown to have for hospice patients. Large hospices, however, might consider placing gentle, high-quality massage chairs in their facilities in order to treat multiple patients at a time.
Additional Benefits of Massage for Older Adults
Massage offers seniors a wide variety of benefits, many of which go hand-in-hand.
Promote Relaxation and Enhance Sleep
Did you know that one out of two seniors experiences sleep deprivation? This is often caused by ailments associated with aging, like physical disabilities, chronic pain, arthritis, respiratory problems, and anxiety. Poor sleep leads to a compromised immune system, therefore decreasing one’s resistance to infections.
By reducing stress and tension, massage therapy improves mood; as a matter of fact, it’s been shown to boost endorphin and serotonin levels. Increased relaxation and mood enhance sleep patterns, which of course aids in overall well-being. Improved sleep also boosts memory and alertness, bettering one’s daily life.
Elderly individuals often complain of cold feet and numbness caused by poor circulation, which can increase their risk of falling. Poor circulation, a common problem among seniors, may also result in restricted blood flow to the legs (also known as Peripheral Vascular Disease).
Massage therapy increases blood flow, thus helping to reduce pooling of fluid in the limbs and warming hands and feet. Additionally, massage aids seniors by reducing fatigue and aches from the build-up of lactic acid in underutilized muscles. Enhanced circulation also boosts mental clarity by bringing oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
Senior Massage Therapy: Boosting Quality of Life
Less physically active seniors are likely to suffer from tight muscles and reduced flexibility and energy. This can lead to balance, stability, and mobility issues. Struggling with these areas often impacts one’s confidence to become fully involved with more physically-demanding activities, which in turn leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Massage therapy helps senior citizens stay active and enjoy everyday life by increasing mental clarity, energy levels, and endurance. Older adults who get regular massages will experience a heightened sense of overall wellbeing thanks to improved postural stability, balance, and range of motion.
Seniors shouldn’t simply accept health issues like chronic pain, stiff muscles, and poor circulation as “a part of getting older.” These symptoms can be tackled with frequent massages to ensure a higher quality of life enjoying beloved activities with loved ones.
About the Author: Jenny Morris is a New Hampshire-based writer who contributes web content to sites covering everything from technology, home goods, social media, and travel. Jenny hails from Massachusetts and has lived in The Granite State ever since she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor of arts in communication. Jenny also performs freelance social media work and creative projects. She spends her downtime traveling, reading, and being active.