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Aged Care Massage In Nursing Homes

Updated: 2 days ago

Top Reasons A Nursing Home Massage Helps The Elderly

Getting older can bring its own health challenges. As massage therapists, we can see just how much aged care massage can help our elderly.

It can not only help them physically with any aches or pains, but it can also help psychologically to bring some happiness to their lives.

Here are some of the reasons why booking an aged care massage for friends or family, that maybe in a nursing home, can be a very positive experience.

1. Massage Can Reduce Arthritis Pain

Arthritis affects milliions of elderly people worldwide, is mostly known as joint inflammation leading to debilitating pain and reduced mobility. There are various treatments and massage therapy has emerged as a promising way to manage arthritis symptoms.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being the most common. OA involves the breakdown of cartilage in joints, while RA is an autoimmune disorder leading to joint inflammation. Both types result in pain, stiffness, and decreased quality of life for sufferers.

Massage helps arthritic pain in the following ways.

  • Increased Blood Flow: Massage enhances circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to affected joints while flushing out toxins, thereby reducing inflammation.

  • Release of Endorphins: Massage stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, promoting feelings of relaxation and well-being.

  • Improved Joint Flexibility: Manipulation of soft tissues helps loosen stiff joints, increasing range of motion and reducing discomfort during movement.

  • Stress Reduction: Arthritis patients often experience heightened stress levels, exacerbating pain. Massage induces relaxation, lowering stress hormones such as cortisol, which can alleviate arthritis symptoms.

There have been quite a few studies that show the effectiveness of massage as a treatment for arthritis.

For example this randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of Swedish massage on knee osteoarthritis. The participants were offered 60-minute-long Swedish massages once a week for a course of eight weeks. The trial had very promising results. It showed that the people who got massage not only enjoyed it overwhelmingly but also experienced a significant reduction in pain and stiffness.

Similarly this study focused on rheumatoid arthritis, and the impact of myofascial release massage. The patients involved in the study received two massage sessions each week for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the patients' pain levels had decreased, and their joint function had improved, which suggests that massage may be an effective way to alleviate some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

And finally, this study examined the effects of deep tissue massage on hand osteoarthritis. Participants received eight weeks of treatment, with sessions twice weekly. Results demonstrated significant reductions in pain intensity and improved grip strength, suggesting the therapeutic benefits of deep tissue massage for OA.

2. Massage Can Help With Stroke Recovery

Strokes can have a significant impact on the affected individual and can severely damage their quality of life.

By massaging paralyzed or mobility-impaired areas of the body, affected areas may be stimulated. The theory is that massage improve limb stiffness through repeated passive movements, increasing blood flow and then reducing pain and involuntary muscle spasms.

Here are a few ways massage can help with stroke recovery

  • Muscle Relaxation and Spasticity Reduction: Stroke survivors quite often have to deal with muscle spasticity, which involves muscles that contract involuntarily and without any control. A way to describe what happens is if, say, you made a fist—are you able to simply unclench your fist? For most people, the answer is "yes." However, for spastic muscles, the answer is often "no." Massage is a hands-on way of working with the body, and it can be a very useful technique in helping muscle spasticity to reduce to a more manageable state—where the muscles can be better controlled. This therapy helps improve the overall range of motion in the affected body parts and also tends to lift the survivors' spirits.. For example this study investigated the effects of massage therapy on stroke survivors' functional outcomes. Participants received weekly massage sessions for eight weeks. Results showed significant improvements in motor function, muscle tone, and overall quality of life compared to the control group receiving standard care.

  • Improved Circulation: Better blood flow is helped when a person gets a massage. The process of a massage spreads out and directs more energy, oxygen, and nutrients to all areas of the body. The heart pumps fresh blood and adds new oxygen to the tissue that is being worked on, while at the same time carrying away metabolic waste. This happens in the short term during the act of the massage and leads to an overall better supply of building blocks for our body's natural repair processes. Also, a by-product of better blood oxygenation and nutrition is reduced muscle spasticity.Improved circulation can facilitate healing and prevent complications such as pressure ulcers and deep vein thrombosis. This study also showed that massage can have a big impact on post-stroke spasticity. Stroke survivors underwent a six-week intervention, with massage sessions tailored to target spastic muscles. Findings indicated significant reductions in muscle spasticity and improved functional mobility following massage therapy.

  • Pain Management: Post-stroke pain, including neuropathic pain and musculoskeletal discomfort, is common among survivors. Massage therapy can alleviate pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and reducing muscle tension contributing to discomfort.

  • Enhanced Mood and Well-Being: Stroke survivors may experience psychological distress, including depression and anxiety, due to the profound impact of stroke on their lives. Massage promotes relaxation, reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, and boosts mood through the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. This study explored stroke survivors' experiences with massage therapy as part of their rehabilitation journey. Interviews revealed themes of improved relaxation, pain relief, and emotional well-being associated with massage sessions. Participants expressed appreciation for the holistic approach of massage in addressing both physical and psychosocial needs.

The therapeutic effects of massage therapy in stroke recovery are attributed to several underlying mechanisms:

  • Neuromuscular Facilitation: Massage stimulates sensory receptors in the skin and muscles, promoting neuromuscular re-education and facilitating motor learning and recovery of function.

  • Neuroplasticity: By modulating neural pathways and promoting synaptic connectivity, massage may enhance neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize and adapt following injury, thereby facilitating recovery of motor and cognitive function.

  • Stress Reduction: Stroke survivors often experience heightened stress levels, which can impede recovery. Massage induces relaxation responses, lowers stress hormones, and promotes a sense of calm, which may positively impact rehabilitation outcomes.

3. Massage Helps With Balance And Mobility

Problems with balance are a common factor in older age.

Risks of falls and injury during this time have the potential to cause more significant long-term health issues. 

Massage can help to avoid this by strengthening muscles and increasing posture, mobility, and balance.

A 2015 study explored the benefits of Thai massage on balance for sixty patients with type-2 diabetes, which were then randomly divided into the study and control group.

Patients treated with a thirty-minute Thai foot massage three days per week showed a significant improvement after only one week of treatment, and a greater improvement in foot and leg movement overall.

The researchers of this study believed that this was caused by improved blood circulation stimulating the somatosensory system, which is the part of the sensory system associated with touch, position, movement, and vibrations in the body.

Any negative impact on this system can lead to impaired balance and mobility.

It is vital that older individuals still have freedom of movement, and impaired balance can significantly jeopardize the person’s quality of life.

Massage of the elderly can help prolong the amount of time an older person is mobile, thereby increasing their independence and also their well being.

4. Massage Can Help Muscle Recovery


Massage can help soften muscles and tissue, and then increases the mobility of the elderly.

Reducing muscle tightness can decrease stiffness and increase movement in the joints.

Sometimes muscles cannot relax normally. Muscle spasms can tell your body to continually contract the muscle. This is a common side effect of strokes and some medications.

A study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science discovered that a massage as short as ten minutes can activate biochemical sensors that send anti-inflammatory signals to your cells, reducing swelling in your muscles.

This then leads to reduced strain on the muscles and decreases muscle tension.

After seventy minutes of extreme exercise, a group of men were given a ten-minute massage to one leg, and muscle biopsies were taken from both legs to compare the difference. The leg with the ten-minute massage showed decreased swelling in the muscle. The results of this study showed how massage can promote short-term muscle recovery.

An aged care massage can also significantly increase an individual’s quality of life by reducing swelling in the muscles (also known as myositis).

Muscle swelling impacts people with rheumatoid arthritis and daily muscle aches and pains associated with some medication side-effects.

5. Massage Helps Increase Blood Circulation In The Elderly

Poor circulation can be a big problem in older age.

It can lead to numbness, swelling or tingling in the hands and feet, fatigue, ulcers and even varicose veins.

It can also lead to disorientation, memory loss and even digestive problems.

A study looking at the link between massage and blood circulation showed how massage improves blood flow via its repeated movements on the body, and by increasing the temperature of the blood, aiding circulation. Studying post-competition Ironman athletes, one group was given a quadricep massage after competing, while another group was not. The study group reported significantly lower pain and fatigue when compared to the non-massaged group. Fatigue is directly related to blood circulation, as improved circulation reduces fatigue.

6. Aged Care Massage Can Help With Muscle Pain

 Musculoskeletal conditions refer to joints, bones, connective tissue and muscles.

This is a broad category that also encompasses some immune disorders and chronic back problems.

Musculoskeletal conditions may be caused by a primary disease, like arthritis, osteoporosis, or fibromyalgia, or be a secondary cause of another condition, such as a frozen shoulder associated with Parkinson’s disease.

It also includes pain caused by a fall or a resulting bone fracture.

Chronic back pain is one of the biggest causes of decreased mobility.

In a review of 26 pre-existing studies published in the Journal of Physiotherapy, it was shown that patients with osteoporosis of the knee, and those experiencing shoulder pain, displayed clinically relevant evidence for short-term pain reduction after the massage therapy. The study finds that a more in-depth look at the effect of massage therapy on musculoskeletal disorders could open up a promising avenue for future treatments.

6. Massage Can Help Boost The Mental Health Of Alzheimers Patients

Depression, stress and agitation are exacerbated in conditions like Alzheimers or Dementia.

Older adults who have Alzheimer’s can experience confusion and disorientation that causes stress, depression, anxiety and agitation.

Agitation can display in a variety of different ways with Alzheimer’s, but is commonly shown by pacing, restlessness, and sudden physical or emotional outbursts.

In a recent 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, a group of 40 agitated Alzheimer’s patients were given seven massages over three weeks by their nurse. The study showed a reduction in stress indicators for Alzheimer’s patients, showing that the massages had caused an improvement in their overall mental health and well being. Side effects caused by stress, such as lack of sleep, restlessness and memory fog, are only worsened with Alzheimer patients.

The relaxation response of a body to massage slows breathing rate, relaxes your muscles and decreases the activation of harmful stress hormones. An aged care massage can assist in relaxation for the participant and therefore improve their mental health and reduce agitation symptoms.

So if you have family that are in an aged care facility or nursing home, adding in a massage to their weekly routine may be a good addition to their health care routine.


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