How Massage Benefits The Aging Processadmin
“…While integrating massage therapy into a health and wellness plan is useful for all ages, it holds particular value in the growing elder population.” ~ Nancy M. Porambo, President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
Statistics are showing that global life expectancy is increasing. A recent study by the United Nations indicated that worldwide population of persons over 60 years old represented 11.7% in 2013. This figure is projected to reach 21% within the next 30 years. Those persons who will live beyond 80 years old are estimated to triple over that same time frame.
Maintaining independence and self-sufficiency for older persons is a growing issue that offers a compelling reason to focus on fitness, mobility, healthy practices and self-care habits at all stages of life but particularly in later years.
As we age, our muscles, skin, bones, and body functions need additional support to counteract the natural aging process that can diminish quality of life:
- muscles can lose their elasticity and become tight; skin becomes thinner and is susceptible to damage;
- joints in hips, knees, shoulders, and wrists can become stiff with arthritis;
- bone density can diminish because the body’s ability to build bone slows;
- decreased circulation, lymphatic system and hormonal responses can cause heart, immunity and stress issues.
4 Major Ways Massage Can Help Reduce the Effects of Aging:
Studies have suggested that massage therapy is becoming a regular supportive option for aging adults to help address some of the pain, discomfort and chronic health issues they may be facing.
Joint and Muscle Pain
Regular massage therapy addresses musculoskeletal deficiencies as it relaxes and stretches muscles making them more flexible and resistant to damage, encourages blood flow and oxygenation into the muscles and tissues that surround joints helping them to move with the joints more fluidly, provides nourishment to the tissues to help them heal, and improves the production of hormones that promote relaxation of muscles.
Joints are nourished and lubricated by synovial fluid, which is a substance much like egg white that is produced by the body to reduce friction around joints. Massage stimulates the production of this substance thus helping reduce joint pain.
Loss of Bone Density
Osteoporosis is a progressively debilitating disease that involves the thinning and weakening of bone mass. This results in changes in posture, pain and reduced mobility and an increasing potential for fractures.
While massage is not a cure for osteoporosis, a gentle version of Swedish massage can support the body to realign and thus reduce pain from the disease because:
- it can relax and release tightness in the body and can reduce pain;
- gentle movements on joints and surrounding tissue and muscles helps promote a normal range of motion;
- massage supports and improves posture by encouraging realignment of the spine, relieve nerve pain, elongate and create space between spinal vertebra.
Cardiovascular Health, Poor Circulation and Blood Pressure
As we age, reduced vascular suppleness and increased plaque contributes to the inefficiency of the cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
Massage can help to decrease stress on the cardiovascular system and improve vessel health by increasing flow and releasing blockages that inhibit the deliverability of oxygenation and nutrients to the body. Massage also supports optimum flow and removal of metabolic toxins through the lymphatic system, which reduces blood pressure and swelling in extremities.
Stress, Anxiety and Dementia
Massage can calm the stress and anxiety responses in the body by increasing hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. This can reduce blood pressure, physical tension, diminish the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes (from a stress response that causes chronically high glucose levels in the blood) and balance any increased cortisol stress hormone levels that might be present. Massage therapy also encourages the production of oxytocin, a hormone that works with the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce heart rate and breathing.
The effects of dementia can also be countered with massage by promoting relaxation and communication. Studies have shown that agitation and pacing and wandering habits of dementia can be significantly reduced with the use of even brief episodes of massage. The power of touch holds a special significance in working with seniors who may be missing out on this type of connection in institutional facilities.
At any age, massage can become a regular part of a pre-emptive protocol to keep immune, muscle, circulatory and lymphatic systems functioning at peak levels throughout life and to manage stress and anxiety. It is especially useful to support overall health and manage later life aging issues.