Thai Massage for the Elderly

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Having recently completed a very energetic Thai Yoga Massage Certification, I find myself with the conviction that giving Thai Massage must be a young person’s game. It’s energetic, agile and requires a certain amount of flexibility. Receiving massage, however, is a pleasure that doesn’t expire no matter how advanced your years are. I personally can’t wait until I’m old enough to be solely on the receiving end of the massage train.

Depending on your physical abilities, limitations and your reasons for getting a massage, a good masseuse can tailor a sequence to your needs, so that you leave feeling refreshed, lightly pummelled and fully relaxed every time.

There are many different styles of massage that can be good for the elderly, and it’s good to do a little research before you spend the money, so you know what style is going to be most beneficial. Today we talk about Thai Massage, what to expect, and how this particular style can be particularly good for health and vitality.

Massage for elderly

What should I expect from a Thai Massage?

Thai Massage is generally a more vigorous style of massage, often likened to “passive yoga”, in that a lot of the movements replicate yoga asana (postures). The massage is done fully clothed, and can last anywhere from one hour to two and a half hours, depending on whether you want the full works, or a shorter session. The receiver simply needs to relax entirely, and the masseuse does all the work (even when the receiver is much larger than the masseuse!). It’s best to choose a masseuse with therapeutic qualifications – a certificate in Thai Massage doesn’t guarantee their knowledge of the therapeutic application of massage techniques, and you want to make sure you’re in safe hands, particularly if you have any physical conditions.

A good masseuse should ask you if you have any physical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, any injuries or chronic pain. They should then be able to adapt the massage sequence to keep the massage safe, comfortable and hopefully help with some of the issues you are dealing with.

A full body thai massage means just that – every area of your body is massaged. The masseuse will work through a sequence following the pattern of stretching out the muscle, kneading or palming the energy lines, pressing (lightly or firmly) on certain points along the energy lines to temporarily stem the blood flow, then allow it to rush back in with more strength and vitality.

The massage will usually start from the feet and work up to the head, as Thailand is a primarily Buddhist country, and in Buddhist tradition, the feet are the lowest part of the body and therefore the most unclean. It is considered rude in Buddhist tradition to point your feet towards the Buddha.

The masseuse works the energy lines on the legs, massages both legs individually then both together in two leg stretches (inversions, or going upside down, should be avoided in the case of heart disease or high blood pressure), then moves on to the stomach, chest and arms. Next is the side position, stretching the side energy lines of the legs and the arms, and for anyone with sciatica, they might spend extra time working on the gluteus and IT band, all the way from the bottom to the outer calf.

The stomach can be an incredibly sensitive and personal area to have massaged, and requires a certain amount of trust between masseuse and receiver. If the receiver has any issues with slow digestion a clockwise stomach massage with gentle circular motions can help to stimulate bowel movements and digestive fire. If digestion is relatively normal, the massage can be performed counter-clockwise with pressure applied onto certain points of the stomach. Any kind of stomach massage helps the internal and digestive organs to work more efficiently, and can help to relieve stomach pain, gas, indigestion and bloating.

From here, the masseuse will move the receiver onto their stomach in a prone position and work the back of the body, before moving into a sitting position to work the shoulders, neck and head. Then, the masseuse will lie the receiver down, go to wash their hands (to cleanse from touching the feet and body) before massaging the face, to complete the massage.

Why is it considered beneficial for the elderly?

As we age, we experience a decrease in mobility, joint flexibility and suppleness, and range of motion that we perhaps had in younger years, which can create joint pain, aches, stiffness and the weakening of muscles. Through therapeutic Thai massage specifically for older patients, we can alleviate discomfort and facilitate pain relief, relaxation and an overall feeling of well-being. The healing power of a compassionate touch is incredibly valuable, and has the ability to help us feel more connected with others and with our own bodies. This can be something more difficult to find in ageing years, as we find ourselves increasingly out of touch with our physical bodies and feel that they are separate from our minds, where we are convinced we are still 25 years old. Massage induces a feeling of well-being and a boost of endorphins, minimising the likeliness of depression and creating a more optimistic outlook on life.

Do I have to lie down to receive a Thai Massage?

Generally, Thai Massage is performed on a thin, supportive mattress on the ground, or alternatively on a massage table. However, a good masseuse should be able to adapt to the receiver’s physical requirements. Massage can be given in the comfort of your home, long-term care facility, or hospital. Depending on the condition, the person receiving the massage can be in bed, seated upright in a chair or wheelchair, or lay on a floor mat.

For clients who are bed-bound, the practitioner will administer massage right on the bed. More focus will be spent on the hands, arms, legs and feet. This will also enhance relaxation, body in-home or on-location services so the patient doesn’t need to leave their home.

An overview of the benefits:

  • helps restore balance, emotional clarity, and promote relaxation and healing
  • helps to relieve joint and muscle pain and stiffness; and improves mobility
  • improves skin condition through better circulation and relieves itchiness
  • calms the mind and body, and promotes a more restful sleep
  • relieves old age depression, stress, anxiety and the feeling of physical isolation
  • helps maintain some muscle tone and flexibility, preventing muscle atrophy
  • releases endorphins which act as a natural painkiller in the bloodstream
  • offers human contact and a compassionate and healing touch
  • helps to relieve other ailments such as arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, osteoporosis, and respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema

To ensure that therapeutic massage can be received, it is important that the client consults a medical professional to gain approval. In some cases, Thai Massage is not recommended for the elderly in certain conditions.

Overall, Thai Massage can be incredibly beneficial for increasing vitality in the elderly, and can be a powerful treatment alongside medication and lifestyle changes for managing physical conditions, chronic pain, and creating an optimistic outlook of the years to come.

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Author: Rosie Moreton