MASSAGE THERAPY AS COMPLIMENTARY ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Massage therapy is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of procedures and methods of pressing, rubbing and manipulating muscles and other soft body tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin and connective tissues. The main objective of massage therapy is to relax the soft tissues while promoting an increased delivery of blood and oxygen to the areas being massages and, therefore, to decrease tightness and pain. Massage therapy is most often accomplished by utilizing the massage therapist’s fingers, hands, arms, elbows and/or feet. Occasionally, however, mechanical and electronic devices may be also used.
As a matter of fact, there are more than eighty official types of massage therapy treatments but some of the most widely known are the following:
* The Deep Tissue Massage. This technique uses a combination of strokes and deep finger pressure applied way down under the skin and into the muscles at the painful sites in order to break up knots and loosen tightness.
* The Trigger Point Massage. This procedure is also known as the Pressure Point Massage and it is more focused on specific myofascial trigger points with a stronger force than the Deep Tissue Massage. The goal here is to dissolve the painful knots that were formed in the muscles as well as to relieve additional symptoms in more remote areas of the body.
* The Swedish Massage. This system utilizes oblong smooth strokes, kneading, and friction of the muscles as well as the movement of the joints to increase their range of motion and flexibility.
* The Shiatsu Massage. Using altering rhythmic pressure, tapping, squeezing and rubbing along the meridian and on various other parts of the body, the main objective of this Eastern massage therapy is to enhance the flow of fundamentally important energy called a gi. And this energy, in ancient Chinese medicine, is believed to be the life force that regulates a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental and physical wellness that is easily affected when subjected to the rival forces of yin and yang.
Whether the four most often practiced massage therapies I mentioned above are used as complementary alternative medicine (also known as CAM) or any one of the other recognized eighty which are available to a lesser or greater extent, there are important points to be considered:
* No massage therapy should ever be used in place of regular or ongoing medical care.
* Massage therapy should not be the cause or the excuse to postpone visiting a medical professional for existing medical issues.
* The massage therapist’s schooling and credentials must be verified as well as his or her experience with specific health and medical conditions.
* Any additional complementary alternative medicine (CAM) such as herbs, supplements, special diets or other treatments which are suggested by the massage therapist must first be reviewed with a medical professional.
* Although the subject of massage therapy (how it works and why) has been studied for many years and continues to study, much of it still remains within the realm of a mystery.
* If and when massage therapy is performed by good training and experienced professional, few risks are involved and the worst of them may be temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling or an allergic reaction to the massage oils. The small number of serious injuries that have been reported were triggered by untrained hands that were not aware that certain medical conditions should not be massaged. It is, therefore, essential to consult a medical professional before undergoing massage therapy, particularly under the following circumstances:
* Deep vein thrombosis
* A bleeding disorder or when taking blood thinners
* Damaged blood vessels
* Weakened bones from osteoporosis, a recent fracture or cancer
* The presence of high body temperature
* Open or healing wounds, tumors, damaged nerves, an infection, severe inflammation or fragile skin
* Heart problems
* Dermatomyositis or any other skin disease
* History of physical abuse
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MASSAGE THERAPY FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
With the baby boomers aging and with the help of higher technology and greater innovations in medicine and geriatric science, life is not merely being prolonged but more and more senior citizens today have the opportunity to take advantage of more quality life than ever before. This translates into a generation of more senior citizens of more advanced ages living among us, and that is, in my opinion, a very good thing. National demographic studies tell us that nearly 40 million Americans are currently 65 years of age or older and over 2,000 more reach age 65 every single day. To accommodate the ever grown demand for massage therapy among senior citizens, many massage therapists are choosing to expand their expertise by studying the art of age-specific massage therapy which is often referred to as senior’s massage or geriatric massage.
For the most part, massage therapy for senior citizens is extremely beneficial and of utmost importance to relieve the aches, the pains, the stiffness and the great number of health condition which are so often associated with aging; such as inflammations in the joints; arthritis; skin discoloration and other dermatological conditions; deteriorating muscles and bones; fading eyesight and loss of hearing, reduced appetite and therefore weight loss, poor blood circulation; sleep disorders; weakened mental capacity, tendonitis; bursitis; asthma; emphysema; high blood pressures; diminished functions of the internal vital organs such as the heart, the liver, the brain, the thyroid, the stomach, and the intestines; and so much more. Most importantly, however, lonely and isolated, depressed, anxious and fearful senior citizens derive pricelessly valuable benefits from the simple pleasure of the caressing human touch and the intimate companionship afforded them during massage therapy sessions.
The Weaver’s Tale Retreat Center in the State of Oregon recently conducted a two-year study examining the effects of massage therapy for senior citizens and they found that at least 50 percent of the elderly who were tested showed a reduction in their rates of breathing, an increase in their range of motion, an improvement of their postures, development of more body awareness, their skin took on healthier colors and their muscle tones were enhanced. The same study also showed that 100 percent of the senior citizen who was tested showed a dramatic improvement in their moods and their attitudes toward life in general.
Massage therapy for senior citizens does not differ in technique but it does differ, and it differs greatly in the application of that technique, whichever that technique may be. In other words, just about any of the different massage techniques can be used on senior citizen but they must be modified enough to accommodate the facts that, very often, the skin of senior citizens have become thinner while growing much less pliable and much more easily broken, their bones are thinner and more brittle, their joints are more stiff with reduced range of mobility, their blood vessels are more prominent and closer to the surface of the skin and their overall health, vigor and vitality have been downgraded through the years. Taking all that into consideration, extra care must be taken when positioning them on the massage tables, they should never be expected to perform the same movements as younger adults, and wheelchair-bound or bedridden seniors should get their massage treatments while remaining seated in their chairs or reclining in their beds.
Most massages for senior citizens are limited to anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes because the elderly seem to respond better to shortened sessions with greater frequency. Furthermore, greater time is usually spent on massaging their hands and feet than any other part of their bodies. That is especially true for those seniors who have lost the use of their hands and feet as massaging them will enhance their body awareness as well as increase sensations and blood circulation throughout.
We all need plenty of TLC (tender love and care) but senior citizens need and deserve quite a bit more of it.
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