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How Can Massage Therapy Benefit Seniors?


In my experience working with seniors, I have been able to see the direct benefits that massage therapy has on their lives. I take pride in providing seniors with the freedom of regained mobility, but I have also seen the positive effects that massage can have on their mental state of mind. This group comes with their own unique set of needs, and those needs can vary depending on the state of their overall health.

Benefits That Massage Can Offer Seniors

Massage offers quite a few unexpected low-risk benefits to senior citizens. Many seniors are prescribed medication for chronic pain, depression, and anxiety, but a number of health organizations and governmental agencies are looking at alternative ways to manage these problems. Massage therapy, unlike some medications, is non-addictive, you cannot overdose, and there are no adverse side effects. It is possible to have, if not mimic, the positive effects of medication with massage at a much lower risk, which is a huge reason as to why it is becoming a popular alternative option in the healthcare industry.

Improved Circulation

The squeezing and pulling from massage moves lactic acid from the muscles and improves circulation. This increases oxygen-rich blood flow to extremities resulting in improved body function. Improved blood circulation leads to a healthier body and a sharper mind. Many seniors turn to massage therapy for pain relief but increasing blood flow to the brain can help combat early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Massage Can Relieve Arthritis Pain

“Regular massage of muscles and joints by a licensed therapist can lead to a significant reduction in pain for people with arthritis.” according to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. According to, Field’s research and other recent studies on the effects of massage on arthritis have shown that the regular use of this touch therapy leads to the improved range of motion, better hand grip strength and an overall improvement of joint functionality.

Headache Relief

Many of my older clients complain of headaches. In their sessions, I always include massage and myofascial release on the neck, shoulders, head, and face. Tension headaches can cause a cycle of pain causing tension, which causes more pain. Massage can interrupt that cycle and allow the client to relax and the tension to release. Several factors that cause headache pain for seniors are side effects from medication, stress, and muscle tension.

Improved Sleep

The anxiety-reducing effects of massage have been proven to help promote a good nights sleep for all ages. The benefit of pain reduction in muscles and joints also helps one experience better sleep. Younger people may have trouble empathizing with this, but when everything hurts, sleep seems impossible and the body weakens. Being able to give someone a restful night of sleep using massage is extremely rewarding for me because I know that it has a significant effect on their overall health and wellness.

Depression Management

Stress and anxiety are huge promoters of depression, and massage therapy has been proven to relieve these mental ailments. Seniors can have a lot of joint pain that they often feel they can do nothing about. This pain leaves them unable to do everyday activities, and this lack of mobility tends to harbor unfortunate depressive effects because they feel they are not as useful as they once were. The combination of stress and pain relief that regular massage brings can help combat depression in this age demographic. Another benefit of a regularly scheduled massage is that some seniors feel isolated from society and their loved ones, but seeing somebody on a regular basis helps them feel as if somebody cares for them. A short chat before and after a regular appointment can mean the world to someone who is dealing with feelings of loneliness.

Experience Therapeutic Touch

Touch is one of the most powerful senses of all. Those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s probably benefit the most from massage therapy and therapeutic touch; I cannot stress enough the benefits of massage therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Massage sends out increased levels of oxytocin which, according to the National Institutes of Health, lowers stress hormone levels which is a huge factor in lowering blood pressure, maintaining good moods and increasing pain tolerances. Massage also restores the dignity that may have been lost with Alzheimer’s and dementia; you can physically see these patients calm down as you work with them and relax for what might be the first time in a long time.

Important Things To Know About Older Clients and Massage

Older clients who bruise easily should let their massage therapist know this before their session. This will allow the therapist to adjust the amount of pressure they use to keep their client as comfortable as possible.

Seniors should drink a good amount of water before and after a massage to stay hydrated. It is always advised that any massage client of any age drink plenty of water post massage, but seniors are more prone to dehydration than those of a younger age.

It is best to see a massage therapist with experience and training working with seniors. This is probably the most important thing to consider when scheduling with a new massage therapist. Seniors have specific needs that need to be met, and extra steps to provide them with excellent service must be taken.

Final Thoughts

I am a big promoter of massage therapy as an effective treatment for chronic pain, stress, and anxiety. I feel that it is extremely beneficial to my older clients’ overall wellness and pain management.

Suzanne Schaper is a Board Certified Massage Therapist serving Lenexa and Overland Park, KS. She loves sharing her knowledge for health and wellness with her customers. "A life free of pain and disease is a more full life." Suzanne enjoys assisting her customers in their pursuit of health and happiness.

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