Geriatric massage is a form of massage designed to meet the specific needs of the elderly population. It involves the use of hands to manipulate the soft tissues of the body to improve blood circulation, relieve pain, and increase range of motion. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of geriatric massage.
Older people often suffer from a variety of such agerelated diseases as Parkinson's disease, arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease. As a result, they have poor blood circulation and limited physical activity. Many of them are also anxious, depressed, and lonely. Geriatric massage can help them maintain and improve their overall health, as well as regain certain physical functions that have been reduced or lost due to aging. In addition, it can relieve anxiety and depression and provide comfort to touch-deprived elderly patients.
Modern massage techniques were brought into the United States from Sweden in the 1850s by two brothers, Dr. Charles and Dr. George Taylor. Their massage technique was invented by a Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling in the 1830s. When he was injured in the elbows, he reportedly cured himself using tapping movements around the affected area. He later developed the technique currently known as Swedish massage. This massage technique involves the application of long gliding strokes, friction, kneading and tapping movements on the soft tissues of the body. Passive or active joint movements are also used.
Geriatric massage offers the following benefits:
Geriatric massage uses the same basic massage techniques as general massage. It is, however, tailored to the specific health conditions and needs of the elderly population. Geriatric massage has the following characteristics:
Geriatric massage should not be used as a replacement for exercise programs or medical treatment in nursing homes. In addition, it should not be given to elderly patients with the following conditions:
Geriatric massage is very gentle and rarely causes adverse effects. More vigorous forms of massage, however, have been associated with bleeding in such vital organs as the liver or with the formation of blood clots.
Research & General Acceptance
Geriatric massage is gaining acceptance in the medical community. It is being prescribed to elderly patients to improve blood circulation and relieve arthritic symptoms. It is sometimes prescribed for Parkinson's disease patients to help improve mobility. While most patients have to pay for this service, some insurance companies do reimburse prescribed massage treatment. As of 2000, however, Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for this treatment.