Massage and Bodywork

Changing Massage to Match Your Life

Massage Therapy Benefits Elders

By June 29, 2016 March 25th, 2021 No Comments

We all know from experience that living in these human bodies changes over time. The physical experience of an 8-year-old is nothing like the physical existence of a 48-year-old. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that massage changes right along with you.
The biggest shift is not when we go from a child’s body to an adult’s body. It’s when we go from having an adult’s body to having an elder’s body. From a massage therapist’s point of view, that happens some time in your mid-60s.
Why does massage need to change? You still have all the body parts you’ve always had. Why would we change the way we rub them?
In some ways, we don’t. We still use pressure and movement to bring relaxation, pain relief, and comfort to your body.
In other ways, we have to change. Out of respect for how your body does change, we change just a little how we work. What are some of the specific bodily changes that occur with the later decades that we care about as massage therapists?
• Your skin thins. You’re much more susceptible to cold and your skin is easier to tear.
• You muscles lose mass. Massaging with the same vigor we did when you were 30 may not be wise.
• Your joints start to show more wear and tear. Getting on and off the table may be more difficult and turning over may be harder.
• Your balance can get more unpredictable. At the end of a massage when you may be all soft and woozy, you might have a greater risk of stumbles or falls.
• Your medications list often grows. Some medications directly affect what we can – and can’t – do in a session.
• You are more likely to have had surgeries so you’re more likely to have scars, even some significant ones. Scar release techniques are even more valuable.
There are also the life changes that come with age. The longer you live, the more likely you are to bury friends and family. The more likely you are to face major illnesses yourself or in people close to you. The more likely you are to face changes in memory. Not too surprisingly, the more likely you are to experience depression.
There isn’t a special massage technique for our elder years. What massage therapists call “geriatric” massage is about understanding the changes that happen in your body and your life as you move into and through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. When we understand the changes, we can adapt the skills we already have to your specific reality. We can take the time to be knowledgeable about medications and their effects. We can prepare ourselves to support you in your big life changes with compassion and professional competency.
We also realize that no two people age exactly the same way on the same schedule. We always plan our work based on the body you have. If you are running marathons at 70, we will still try to keep your IT band pliable. If you’re still spending long hours on planes, we’ll still help you reduce the swelling in your legs that tends to occur. You won’t automatically start getting “geriatric” massage on your 65th birthday. We still work with you as you are on any given day.
In some ways, life doesn’t change as we move into our elder years. It just becomes more. More wisdom, more loss. More acceptance, more discomfort. More change, more stability. Massage doesn’t need to stop when you find yourself in your elder years. Massage can help you maintain whatever level of wellness you want. We will take that journey with you.

Kelly Bowers

Author Kelly Bowers

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