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Massage benefits for the elderly

In addition to boosting circulation, easing stress and relieving aches and pains, all important physiologically for people who don’t move around much, massage bestows a basic need the elderly often go without: touch.

A study published in 1998 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that elderly people who massaged infants experienced less stress, improved mood and fewer trips to the doctor.

Researchers believe massage, and touch generally, can strengthen the immune system by stimulating pressure receptors under the skin, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol, the chief culprit in killing disease-fighting cells, said Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

But elderly people, who could use the immune-boosting benefits of touch the most, are getting it the least.

More than chatting, playing games or holding hands, giving focused, attentive touch establishes a nurturing bond that expresses caring, Nelson said. She has seen it ease symptoms of touch deprivation, such as irritability and a lack of interest in life. In people with dementia, she said, it helps ground them in reality.

Full version: Massage for the elderly helps body and mind by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune / Charlotte Observer
Massage 1

The science behind massage

[…]The most obvious and most often claimed benefit [to massage] is increased circulation. This is definitely true to the area being massaged, and the evidence is the skin having an increased reddish color, pretty simple.

Ok, so your neck hurts and rubbing increases the circulation, but so what, why does more blood in that area make it feel better?

The increase of blood flow delivers more nutrients to nerve and muscle cells and also aids in flushing away cellular toxins. As cellular health improves, the tissues function more efficiently. Body tissue that is starved of nutrients and oxygen heal slowly.

Just as if a garden hose has a kink in it, and then you undo that kink, the water has a burst of flow from the built up pressure, then the water flows easily through the hose again.

Ok, so back to that achy neck that you’ve been rubbing. Remember when you were little and you bumped your knee and just that little kiss from mom seemed to make it feel better? It really does! The sensation of pressure helps to block pain sensations from going to your brain. The idea of blocking pain with another sensation is commonly known as Gate Control Theory, even that shaking of your finger when you bang it with a hammer does the trick.

What else is going on when you get a massage?

When the muscles are tight or there has been an injury, the body develops adhesions, or bands of rigid tissue. These adhesions block circulation and limit movement. The tissue will “forget” that it can be looser and longer and muscles will stay contracted. Massage will physically break down these adhesions, softening them, stretching them or re-organizing them to go with the direction of the muscle fiber instead of against, to restore normal range of movement. Rubbing those muscles relaxes the tissue, reducing painful contractions and “reminding” the tissue that it can be looser.

And now our first big word of the day: Piezoelectricity. It actually means electricity resulting from pressure and parts of the body generate this electricity, including the repair material used after trauma or inflammation. The pressure from getting a massage stimulates, down to the molecule, that material to heal faster than it normally would.

It must be mentioned that massage doesn’t just feel pleasant and relax muscles, but also has a much more complex effect on your mental and emotional state. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce blood pressure, which is an indicator of stress.

When it feels good to be in your skin, you gain emotional and psychological benefits that are virtually impossible to measure. Massage can change your sense of self and be a catalyst for personal growth.

With all these benefits, you can see why regular massages (even once a month) are a good investment.[…]

The Science of Massage by Jennifer Kantzer

Massage helps start living from a preventative perspective

It’s one of the oldest healing arts, and today the benefits of massage are varied and far-reaching. As an accepted part of many physical rehabilitation programs, massage therapy has also proven beneficial for many chronic conditions including low back pain, arthritis, bursitis, fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, immunity suppression, infertility, smoking cessation and depression. Many people will also attest that massage helps relieve the stress and tension of everyday living.[…]

Making time for massages is something persons from all walks of life should do because the benefits are numerous, says Orthopedic Sports Therapist Edwardo Thompson[…].

“You don’t have to lift something heavy to put your muscles under stress — it could be something as simple as a thought, so therefore that stress level that you’re now putting on your body needs to find its way out. I like to look at the body as a big chain of energy. Anytime you have a short circuit, it has to go somewhere. Electricians will tell you that the reason you have circuit boxes is because if you have a shortage somewhere it’s going to trip the breaker, so the same thing with stress. When your body becomes stressed then you start having boils and lumps and all these other things, and this is when diseases start to form. It has to go somewhere, and nine times out of 10, what massage does is help the body to relax. It helps the body to get rid of that load. Muscles are designed to move, so all the movement that you do over a period of time weighs you down and puts tension on you. It actually strains the muscle, so a good therapist will actually lengthen the muscle tissues and that’s where the results will come.”

Going for days, weeks and months on end without having your muscles relaxed to release the chemical reaction isn’t good says Thompson[…].

“The true benefit for me when I work on my clients is to really help them prevent stress … even disorders. Sometimes we [massage therapists] are the first ones to recognize a problem with a client. Sometimes the client doesn’t even know they have a problem. Because we’re working on them on a consistent basis, we’re able to identify things and sometimes we make suggestions,” he said.[…]

While the country is in an economic bind and most people are watching how they spend their “pennies,” he suggests that you start living from a preventative perspective instead of waiting for something to happen. Thompson says getting massages gives you the opportunity to maintain a perfect health, to recover it, and ensure that your body is performing at an optimum level at all times.

“Spend that quality time for yourself. To really look at it from the perspective that you not only want to live longer, but you want to live healthier. When you get a massage, it’s not that you’re getting a relaxation massage or feel-good massage, you’re actually helping your body to function.”

New study finds how massage affects stress hormone levels

Recently published in The Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine, researchers tested the blood of 53 adults via intravenous catheters before and up to an hour after they received deep Swedish massages or light massages.

According to researcher Mark Hyman Rapaport and his colleagues at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, one session of massage may lead to immediate, significant positive biological changes.

The 29 adults who received 45-minute Swedish massages had small decreases in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and large decreases in levels of arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can increase cortisol levels.

The 24 adults who received light massages had greater increases in levels of oxytocin, a contentment hormone, than those who received Swedish massages. This may mean light massage is just as beneficial as a deeper Swedish massage, which involves therapists using “long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping,” according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.