By Krystal Newton
Clearly people over 55 are discovering the health benefits of regular massage therapy. In the past year, about 9 million people 55 or older had a total of 39 million massages, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. Most were for medical purposes.
As people age, they often start to slow down and may get overtaken by chronic conditions such as arthritis or other age-related illnesses. Sometimes old injuries start to cause problems. Everyone ages on a different time clock.
Working with clients who are 50 or older has taught me how the process of aging can have both physical and mental effects on an individual and how massage can play such a pivotal role in assisting with both. Aging is a natural process and any number of complications can arise. Arthritis, disc degeneration, mental/emotional distress, muscle fatigue, loss of circulation and coordination are some of the common ailments I see.
There are a host of benefits that a gentle yet stimulating massage can provide, no matter what the ailment might be.
Some of the physical benefits of massage include an increase in blood circulation for those concerned with swelling or overall poor circulation. Loss of coordination resulting in falls is not uncommon throughout the aging process. Massage can help prevent this by loosening areas where muscles are tight. This results in freeing any restrictions that then corrects faulty movement patterns, contributing to more support and balance within your frame.
Arthritis and overall joint pain is a common complaint. With gentle stretches and joint mobilizing techniques, inflammation and pain decreases while joint mobility increases. Patients can gain an increased range of motion by the application of gentle pressure on their joints, soft tissue and muscles.
I have clients who report an overall state of well-being and higher quality of sleep after regular massages.
Although some people don’t experience pain on a physical level, there are those who are mentally and emotionally unwell. One of the key components to living the latter stages of life happy and healthy is to maintain social connections. Once your social circle begins to diminish, feelings of isolation and loneliness can set in. This can take a major toll on a person’s mental/emotional health.
I’ve noticed in a majority of my sessions that my clients just want someone to talk to and to actually be heard. For them, massage is a form of therapy. Massage has been proven to assist in combating depression and anxiety by decreasing cortisol levels and increasing the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, known as endorphins. This provides individuals with a sense of relaxation and social interaction. On a mental and emotional level, tension and stress is released.
Take for instance an 85-year-old client of mine who came in with extreme neck pain and a chronic bone disease. After reading about the benefits of massage therapy, and with a little help from family and friends, she was desperately hoping I could rid her of her pain. What was supposed to be a 25-minute session turned into an hourlong treatment filled with storytelling. She expressed how grateful she was to have someone who cares. I followed up after a couple of days and she told me how much relief she felt and how she was able to get some of the best sleep she’s had in a while.
Aging can be daunting, but with the right support and help from trusted bodywork professionals you can experience a greater sense of well-being, relief from pain, and fully enjoy life.
Krystal Newton is the massage therapy director for NorthBay HealthSpring Fitness.