Massage Therapy for Seniors
As baby boomers reach the age of 65 and beyond, there is now an increasing number of senior citizens in Canada. As a result, many healthcare practitioners are focusing specifically on seniors’ health concerns. Research suggests that massage therapy can be beneficial for many of the conditions commonly associated with aging.
Sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions of the joints. Although osteoarthritis can be diagnosed at any age, it’s more common among seniors. Osteoarthritis can affect any part of the body, from the hips, to knees, to fingers, and causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limited range of motion. One study, examining the effectiveness of massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee, shows that massage therapy can reduce pain and improve physical function in patients with this condition. Another study found that in patients with rheumatoid arthritis of their arms and hands, massage therapy improved their ability to control the movement of their limbs.
Alzheimer’s is one of the most common forms of dementia, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Another common symptom of Alzheimer’s is agitation, and massage therapy can be particularly helpful in reducing physical signs of agitation. This includes pacing, wandering and resisting. Research has suggested that for individuals with any form of dementia, hand massage aids in relaxation, and consistently reduces aggressive behaviors.
When an individual has suffered a stroke, once their condition is stabilized, they can experience a wide variety of lingering symptoms including but not limited to weakness, pain, problems with balance and coordination, and fatigue. Based on the latest research, massage therapy can decrease anxiety and pain, increase health-related quality of life, and improve sensorimotor functions after stroke.
Massage Therapy Can Help
People often expect aging to come with increased aches and pains, and massage therapy can help to relieve many of them. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives, and are remaining active for longer. Many seniors will be seeking out massage therapy for the first time to deal with many common side effects of aging. When it comes to the aches, pain and particular conditions experienced by seniors, massage therapy has a lot to offer.
MTAS gratefully acknowledges the Registered Massage Therapists' Association of Ontario (RMTAO) for their generous permission to use the material in this section.
Cai FF and Zhang H. Effect of therapeutic touch on agitated behavior in elderly patients with dementia: A review. Int J Nurs Sci. 2015 Sep; 2(3):324-328. [link]
Lämås K, Häger C, Lindgren L, Wester P, Brulin. Does touch massage facilitate recovery after stroke? A study protocol of a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Feb 4; 16:50. [link]