it’s not just a state of mind
In the past we have talked about the benefits of massage in general, as well as the benefits related to sports performance and recovery, pregnancy and mental health. But with a rapidly ageing population in Australia – and around the world – are there benefits in massage for the more mature members of our community?
The answer, of course, is yes there are! Australian Bureau of Statistics figures have tracked a steadily increasing age profile in Australia in the last 100 years. In 1911 one in every 25 people were over 65. By 2016 it was one in six. That’s a whopping 16%! And what’s more – those people over 65 are getting older. That is to say, there is a higher percentage of people 75-84 and over 85 than ever before.
The old prevention is better than cure routine
One of the most important things we can do as we age is retain our health. As we age, it is more difficult to recover from illness, so to avoid getting ill is the best way to ensure we get that letter from the Queen congratulating us on our 100th birthday.
Massage can play a key role in helping us remain fit and healthy as we age. The American Medical Association has stated “it has been verified through scientific exploration that more than 80 percent of all diseases are due to stress and strain that originate in the mind and reflect on the body”. If we consider stress has a cumulative effect on the body, then as we age we are likely to be more and more prone to stress related illnesses. It is also worth noting that illness, in and of itself, can create stress. So as we age, and become more prone to diseases like arthritis, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and heart problems, our stress levels can increase.
How Seniors Massage is Different
Many massage clients love nothing more than a good, deep remedial massage, often commenting that it ‘hurt in a good way’. As we age, this is not necessarily the best approach. The older we get, the style of massage we need changes:
- shorter more frequent sessions often work better – a half hour massage weekly or fortnightly is better than an hour once a month. This is because massage keeps muscles supple and blood moving. A month in between is just too long.
- Swedish – rather than the pressure of a Remedial or Sports Massage, Swedish style is more appropriate as the body ages. Long sweeping movements to encourage blood flow and lymphatic drainage are best.
- Hands and Feet – as we age arthritis can make our hands and feet less flexible. If they are not too inflamed massaging hands and feet can keep them moving.
The key is being clear with your therapist about where your aches and pains are, and what level of pressure you would like. Don’t ever be reluctant to speak up. Your massage therapist wants you to leave feeling fabulous – not like you’ve been through the wringer.
Benefits of Massage as we Age
All the benefits of massage that we have talked about in previous blogs apply here. However, there are some aspects that are worth mentioning specifically, as they are particularly pertinent as we age:
- the stimulation of the lymphatic system offered by massage (even when not specifically a lymphatic drainage) is important as it helps drain the body of toxins. As we become less active, the lymphatic system becomes more sluggish, and the resulting build up of toxins can impact our overall health.
- Restoration of mobility – conditions like Parkinson’s Disease and Arthritis can reduce our mobility, causing muscles to become stiff and to shorten. Massage will help lengthen and keep these muscles supple.
- Sleep – many older people have problems sleeping. Regular massage can help you get a better night’s sleep
- Faster healing – as we age it takes longer and longer for us to heal as the body’s repair systems slow down. The blood-flow and general health benefits of massage mean you will heal faster, reducing the risk of secondary infections and prolonged illness.
- Many, many studies have confirmed the healing power of touch. This seemingly simple human interaction can have an enormously powerful effect on people who are older, particularly if they have lost their partner and their social circle is limited.
- Increase production of serotonin and dopamine improves your frame of mind – no more stereotyped Cranky Old Men/Women!
- Non-invasive and drug free. As we age, the number of pills we take can increase alarmingly. To be able to improve our health or reduce pain without another pill to take can be hugely important.
- Improved energy – the increased blood flow, improved lymphatic drainage, increased production of serotonin and dopamine, and better sleep all contribute to an elevated level of energy.
- Reduced risk of falls. It has been well documented that a fall as we age can have extraordinarily negative impact on our overall health and well-being, far beyond the specific damage of the fall. So much so that it is one of the primary concerns of many older Australians. Massage has been proven to help proprioception – that is, our sense of the relative position of our body parts, thereby reducing the risk of falls.
That’s quite a list!
So, if you or someone you know could benefit from a regular massage routine, call our Baulkham Hills Clinic on 9639 7337 to make an appointment.