by John Barett
Geriatric massage, which utilizes the same basic techniques as traditional massage therapy, was especially designed for the elderly and their unique needs. This type of massage includes the gentle massage of soft tissues (and sometimes passive or active manipulation of the joints), proven to improve circulation and increase flexibility. Massage therapy for the elderly addresses the same health conditions as other techniques and utilizes the same methods, but with a much gentler touch.
While the main goal of this type of massage is basic relaxation and stress relief, it has also proven to be beneficial in fighting the symptoms of aging. The session usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes and includes gentle stretching of legs, feet and shoulders as well as gentle massaging of the hands and feet to relieve pain and prevent stiffness. Stronger movements are sometimes incorporated into massage therapy - particularly in the shoulders - to improve flexibility.
Geriatric massage also helps to:
•Increases blood circulation to reduce the effects of diabetes and other diseases;
•Improves lymphatic flow to aid in the elimination of toxic substances from the body;
•Combats the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression;
•Improves balance, posture and flexibility;
•Reduces arthritic pain and increases joint mobility;
•Improves quality of sleep.
As we age, we become more susceptible to such illnesses as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson's disease. Many elderly people also tend to feel anxiety, loneliness and/or depression. Massages for the elderly can lessen the symptoms of such conditions and in doing so, improve blood circulation, increase one's level of physical activity and provide an overall greater sense of well-being.
Other massage techniques (such as the Swedish massage) can cause pain and bruising... therefore they are not recommended for the elderly. The massage therapist takes into account the fact that as we get older, we experience more stiffness in our joints and a lower threshold for pain, so the therapist pays special attention to any discomfort that the client may be experiencing so he/she can adjust their technique to make the client feel more comfortable. A lot of massage therapists choose to use creams, lotions or oils for this type of massage to nourish their clients' delicate skin and enhance the experience.
More and more doctors everywhere are beginning to accept geriatric massage therapy... but as an addition to other required treatment...not as a substitute. Although geriatric massage has few known side effects and is a very gentle procedure, if you or someone you know is considering geriatric massage therapy, be sure to speak with your primary care physician before proceeding. And remember that as with any other type of medical procedure, continuity is key. The more you participate, the greater the benefits you'll enjoy.
Several studies have also supported the idea that touch therapy - such as that provided by geriatric massage therapy - can have a very positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of the elderly. And because elderly people often feel very isolated and alone, a geriatric massage program can help ease depression, stress, and other emotions related to their isolation. Touch - via geriatric massage therapy - can also stimulate circulation, boost the immune system, and ease the aches and pains which plague many elderly bodies.
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