Older adults have to deal with many age-related physical issues. Massage provides an enjoyable way for them to feel better and sustain a better quality of life. It involves no surgical or other invasive procedures
and is considered relaxing and pleasant. Massage is effective because it impacts the whole body. It eases muscle and joint pain and reduces stress, which often increases in later years. Using age-appropriate massage techniques, and adjusting the length of the sessions ensures that massage will be beneficial – reducing the need for medications and the possible side effects so many medications can cause.
More than Just a Pleasant Physical Experience
Many people think getting a massage is just good for the body. The words they use are “soothing,” “relaxing,” and even “it just makes the pain go away.” It’s only seen as an agreeable way to handle issues caused by physical problems.
Older adults with a wealth of life experiences may focus only on these physical issues, things like injury or illness, as the causes of pain. They don’t consciously think about the fact that STRESS can cause physical problems as well as being a result.
That’s why so many people consider massage a luxury, a relaxing physical experience that is a treat or a reward for some event. The truth is that stress is one of the major things that bring pain into their lives. The good news is that even if a person is not aware of how much stress can injure the body as well the mind, massage is a very effective way to reduce its effects.
EVERYBODY Has Stress
Everybody experiences stress because it’s part of the body’s reactions to things that disturb our physical or mental equilibrium. Our DNA has an ancient reaction called the ‘fight or flight’ response.” It’s triggered by several body chemicals, especially adrenaline. There are a number of other things that happen – which it makes sense to consider. These “other things” are good in emergency situations, but not as a regular part of everyday life.
Some Science about Massage
When we lived in a much more threatening environment, with daily life or death situations we had to respond to, “flight or fight” served us well, keeping our species alive by allowing us to adapt and survive in dangerous situations.
Flight or Fight Reactions
- Accelerated heart rate and pulse
- Tightening of muscles as they are prepared for action
- Boosted blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Slowdowns in other body processes, including digestion
- Immune system suppression
- Heightened alertness/lack of sleep
- Increased production of a stress hormone (cortisol)
This is a great set of reactions when you’re about to be trampled by an irate wooly mammoth but – way back in days when that could happen – you got out of the situation that caused the stress and your body went back to normal – a condition called to homeostasis.
The problem in today’s culture is that the fight or flight stays turned on – full blast- EVERY DAY of our lives, even during regular life activities that don’t emergency reactions.Chronic exposure to this level of stress reactions throughout our lives has a negative effect and can lead to sub-par performance and problems with a wide range of various internal organs, and even down to a cellular level. This is commonly referred to as Chronic Stress Syndrome.
Common Chronic Stress health problems:
- Headaches and Migraines
- Increased Muscle Tension
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Hypertension Arthritis
How Massage Therapy Benefits Older Adults
Beyond the obvious benefits like relaxation, massage has been shown to decrease stress in the body. Reducing stress has so many other benefits beyond just feeling better mentally like feeling less depressed or reducing anxiety. The Mayo Clinic reports massage reduces stress, pain, and loosens the tension on your muscles. Other benefits include increasing blood flow to the limbs, helping the body’s immune and nervous systems, and more. Massage is especially helpful for older adults. It’s been shown to aid stroke recovery, improve balance, and provide a mood lift.
Top 10 Benefits of Massage Therapy for Older Adults
- Increases blood circulation to your Hands and Feet – Circulation is important to keep our body functioning and also provides the heat. If you feel your hands and feet go cold often, blood isn’t flowing as well. This is more common as you age and massage helps increase blood flow.
- Gain your bearings and Improve balance – Falling is a big concern for older adults and massage helps to improve proprioception, the sense of the relative position of body parts, which improves balance and reduces the chances of falling.
- Softens tissues and hardened muscles – Aging and lack of activity lead to muscles hardening/tightening – massage aids in softening muscles and tissues by increasing blood flow to the areas and reducing overall muscle tension.
- Relaxation – Massage provides a way to release tension and stress
- Increased stimulation of the nervous system – Massage therapy is beneficial for the nervous system because it releases different chemicals and hormones in your brain. Endorphins and other neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine are released as well.
- Reduced recovery time after stroke – Older adults are advised to get moving after a stroke and massage therapy is supportive because it stimulates affected areas, areas that may be paralyzed.
- Increase flexibility – Muscles and joints tighten due to inactivity and massage therapy softens up tight muscles allowing a wider range of motion.
- Improves sleep – The relaxation from massage even helps recipients sleep through the night.
- Immune support –Massage releases toxins and significantly supports the functioning of the immune system.
- Relieves arthritic and other pain – Massage can’t cure arthritis, but by increasing blood flow it creates heat, reducing pain in your joints and warming areas with better circulation.
How to Enhance the Benefits of Massage Therapy
Coupling massage therapy with other therapies – Infrared saunas, moderate exercise with gentle stretching and essential oils can all help to decrease the negative effects of pain and stress on the body. Massage and essential oils can even provide some relief for Alzheimer’s sufferers, an important consideration given the expanding concern over the long-term side effects associated with many of the medications used to manage pain and behavior in patients with memory issues.