Geriatric Massage: Physical and Emotional Well Being for the Elderly

By Bobby Wise

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. Geriatric massage therapy addresses the same health conditions as other techniques and utilizes the same methods, but with a much gentler touch.

While the main goal of geriatric 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 geriatric massage therapy - particularly in the shoulders - to improve flexibility.

Geriatric massage also helps to:

  • Reduce the effects of diabetes and other diseases by increasing blood circulation;
  • Eliminate toxic substances from the body by improving lymphatic flow;
  • Reduce the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety;
  • Enhance posture, flexibility and balance;
  • Battle the effects of arthritis, such as pain and limited joint mobility;
  • Provide better overall sleep.

With the aging process, also comes an increased vulnerability to diseases, including but not limited to: diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and arthritis. Geriatric massage can alleviate the symptoms of these ailments, as well as the depression, anxiety and loneliness felt by many people in this age group. Add to that an increase in physical activity, better blood circulation and a sounder overall sense of well-being, and you have the perfect solution for a healthy senior.

Deep tissue work and penetrating massage techniques are not suitable for many geriatric clients, because these techniques can cause pain and bruising. Elderly bodies also experience more stiffness and joint problems, which must be taken into account when working with the elderly. The skin of older people is very fragile, requiring the use of massage oil or lotion and gentle geriatric massage techniques to avoid tearing or irritation. During a geriatric massage, the therapist continually watches for signs that the client might be experiencing pain or discomfort so they can adjust the pressure being used. Sometimes, lightly brushing the skin is enough, while in other cases slow circular massage strokes may be used.

While the medical community is embracing geriatric massage therapy, they warn that it is meant to complement any existing treatment ... not replace it. Therefore - even though geriatric massage is a gentle and non-evasive procedure with no known side effects - it should not be entered into without the advice of your family doctor. And as is with all treatments designed to maintain a healthy body ... the more you participate, the more you will benefit.

One more thing ... because elderly people often feel like they are all alone, one of the major factors in the popularity of geriatric massage therapy is the use of touch therapy, which is believed to strengthen both the physical and mental well being of its clients. Touch therapy - by way of geriatric massage - has been proven to ease the effects of feeling isolated such as depression, anxiety and stress, as well as boosting the immune system, reducing aches and pains and minimizing stress.

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5 Responses

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