Senior Beat

The benefits of massage for senior health

By Carol Higgins Taylor

Special to The Weekly

It wasn’t too many decades ago that the term “full-body massage” conjured up visions of wealthy women at exclusive spas or heavyweight champs getting a rubdown after a particularly tough match.

    Fast forward to today, what was once reserved for “someone else” is now available to everyone. Tight muscles, stiff joints, or simply the need for relaxation are but a few of the reasons massage therapy has rapidly gained popularity.

It may be the right time to try massage if you haven’t already. We tend to be more active in the summer, which is a good thing, but at the end of the day you might find yourself with kinks in all the wrong places.

Now imagine fragrant essential oils, soft music, and getting the stiffness and soreness worked out of those tired muscles.    

     While massage can be advantageous for everyone, seniors may derive added benefits:

 –Improved circulation, which naturally lubricates joints, brings heat and more nutrition to muscles, and increases the removal of waste.

  –Improved skin function by stimulating sebaceous glands, which lubricate the skin with the body’s own oils.

  –Reduction in anxiety and nervousness as the body releases natural endorphins and relaxants.

  –Relieves muscle aches, pain while improving muscular tone.

  –Increased flexibility and strength, which is needed for tasks such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of a tub or chair.

  –Increased range of motion and coordination.

In fact, the American Massage Therapy Association’s website explains other ailments for which massage can be helpful:

–Low-back pain can benefit from massage. Studies show that massage therapy can decrease pain, reduce disability, and lower anxiety and or depression in people who suffer from low-back pain.

–Post-operative pain can hinder recovery. AMTA cites research indicating that massage therapy can be effective for reducing the pain’s intensity and severity along with reducing anxiety in patients having surgical procedures.

–Tension headaches. Probably the most common type of headache but fortunately, research has shown that it responds well to massage therapy which decreases perceived pain, frequency, duration, and intensity.

–Arthritis. AMTA states that just 60 minute sessions of Swedish massage, weekly, can help reduce knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. Swedish message is deep tissue massage so may not be for everyone. To be safe, have a conversation with your healthcare provider and massage therapist first.

      So, what can you expect from a massage? Your therapist will use techniques to relax you and ease stiff muscles, such as tapping, rolling the skin and kneading gently. You’re in charge of how much pressure is used. A massage can also be tailored to a client’s needs, including avoiding specific body parts or focusing on others for extra work.        

           When looking for a massage therapist it is important to verify credentials by asking questions such as:

  –Are you licensed to practice massage?

  –What types of massage do you offer?

  –Where did you receive your massage training?

  –Do you have experience working with seniors and conditions such as arthritis, etc.?

On the first visit, typically, new clients will fill out forms regarding their health status. And while massage can be very therapeutic, if there are any health concerns, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, or edema, check with a physician before booking an appointment. If you aren’t asked to complete a health status form, be sure to let your massage therapist know if you have these conditions. It is also important to disclose if you are taking certain medications, particularity blood thinners.

     Feeling relaxed is of utmost importance. If you are not comfortable, aside from possible first-time massage jitters, (let’s face it, the first time is a little weird) look for another therapist.  

For more information on massage, visit the American Massage Therapy Association’s website at www.amtamassage.org.

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in Bangor. Email her at seniorbeat@gmail.com.

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