Massage Training for the Elderly

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Geriatric massage promotes both physical and mental health through the use of soft, relaxing strokes that induce relaxation. Massage can help with the symptoms associated with aging, such as by stimulating bowel movements to prevent constipation and increasing blood and lymph circulation, causing acceleration in the body's healing properties.

When giving a massage to an elderly patient, consider the patient's overall health, the amount of activity the patient usually receives and the medications that she's using. Massage sessions are usually less than 30 minutes long to avoid overstimulation, but if the patient is active, she can receive up to an hour of massage therapy.


Training & Skills

To work with geriatric patients as a massage therapist, you'll need to obtain additional training. Training facilities such as the DAY-BREAK Geriatric Massage Institute (see Resources) offer a 34-hour course in geriatric massage. Items that are addressed in this course include client assessment and in-depth studies on the aging process. Students will receive hands-on training where they will learn how to use lighter pressure and adjust their massage to meet the patient's needs. For example, a patient may have trouble lying on his back, which would mean performing a side-lying massage.

Since working with elderly clients requires a proficiency in pathology, the emphasis of the program at the DAY-BREAK Geriatric Massage Institute is on studying various diseases and ailments that elderly people may have. However, more importantly, you learn how one disorder/ disease could lead to several other diseases/disorders, (e.g., a patient with diabetes could also have circulatory, kidney, liver and neuropathy issues). If all of the patient's ailments aren't taken into consideration before beginning a session, you could harm the patient. In the example above, if you only considered the patient's diabetes, you could overstimulate the patient, causing circulatory, kidney and liver problems by increasing the blood flow.


Before beginning the massage treatment on an elderly patient, find the specific reason why he wants a massage. Some patients may simply feel achy and yearn for a therapist's nurturing touch, while others may have complicated illnesses. Elderly patients usually move more slowly, so you must show a great deal of patience.


Remember that elderly patients are usually taking a host of medications. All of these drugs have side effects and interact with each other, causing more side effects. Side effects for some drugs include muscular pain and easy bruising; massage could also intensify the effects of certain medications. Therefore, it's important to keep a Physicians' Desk Reference or drug guide available to look up various side effects and interactions with other medications.


One misconception about aging is that all elderly people are fragile, so you must use light pressure on the patient. However, many active senior citizens are able to withstand deeper pressure.

Light or no-touch therapies are used for the frail patient. Eastern cultures believe that an energy force, chi, is circulating through and around your body; pain is said to be stagnant chi. Reiki, Healing or Compassionate Touch, and Jin Shin Jyutsu are three modalities that realign the body's energy by placing your hands over or barely touching problem areas.


Massage can help prevent certain diseases that are associated with aging. Massage is calming and therefore will lower blood pressure and pulse rate and calm anxiety. It will also lessen inflammation and pain and increase range of motion, enabling the patient to be more independent. The tender touch of massage is emotionally comforting. Overall, geriatric massage helps balance the mind and body, making life more pleasurable.

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