We’ve all heard someone say that their [insert body part here] is not what it used to be. As we age our bodies feel the test of time and pain is, unfortunately, a common symptom of growing old. Almost 80-85% of people past the age of 65 experience some form of pain. Pain in the elderly is usually treated with drug therapy, but with the often complex combination of drugs a person can be on, seeking alternatives or aides for painkillers could be beneficial. Alternative therapies like massage is being more widely accepted and, in some cases, is replacing drugs to relieve pain.
In terms of physical benefits for the elderly, massage reduces stress, deepens relaxation and breathing, lowers blood pressure, stimulates circulation, relieves joint pain, reduces swelling, stimulates bowels and flow of lymph, improves sleep, releases endorphins, decreases fear and anxiety, and creates a sense of well-being and decreased isolation, which people may feel especially if they are living in an assisted living community. One of massage’s most rewarding benefits may simply be providing more physical and social interaction for elders.
Marika Eckhardt of Beyond Beaute Day Spa and Wellness Retreat in Clear Lake, TX shares her story of woman who didn’t even come for a massage but that was what exactly what the woman needed.
“One day I was just about leaving in the evening when the front desk attendant rushed to me and asked me if I could give a 15 minute reflexology on a client’s back. I immediately went to meet her. She was an older lady with a cane in her right hand and appeared fragile. She told me she was in so much pain she could hardly walk. I instructed her to lay down and I noticed how tight she held her body and her breathing was extremely shallow. It was obvious that her body was under tremendous stress. After feeling her back I realized her back muscles were so tight that they were probably constricting all the nerves in her spine, which was the cause of all the pain. I started by asking her to breathe deeply all the way down to her diaphragm while giving her gentle friction with my thumbs along the sides of the spine. I was able to slowly release the tension even in her gluts. Thirty minutes later I helped her get up from the table and I noticed immediately how bright she looked, she looked at me and said she felt so good. There was hardly any wobble as she walked out of the room. She was back next day.”
Massage can even provide those with Alzheimer’s disease a way to relax. Massage has the ability to both relax and stimulate. Massage can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with Alzheimer’s and it can also stimulate the nervous system to maintain nerve passageways in decline because of the disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease also respond well to massage therapy as another form of communication, which can provide a source of strength and closeness. With Alzheimer’s the familiarity of touch may reach a loved one when nothing else has worked.A massage therapist needs to be sensitive to health conditions of a person in order to be effective. When a therapist considers elders’ unique needs, a massage can improve their physical and emotional well-being, and emotionally, a massage can become an anticipated and cherished part of their life.