Geriatric Massage

Geriatric massage is a form of therapy designed to meet the specific needs of the elderly. As we get older, massage can help to manage the many physical and mental challenges that arise. People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, depression and other age-specific conditions can have chronic pain, poor circulation and limited physical activity. Geriatric massage at Massage Therapy of Oak Park addresses these conditions.

Our specific approach to geriatric or elder massage can help our oldest clients maintain and improve overall health and regain the physical function that may have been lost due to aging. Massage Therapy of Oak Park can also assist seniors in recuperating from surgery. We encourage our clients and/or their caregivers to consult a physician prior to beginning therapy. Additionally, we always ask individual clients about their present flexibility, degree of comfort with a state of undress, desired depth of pressure and preferred treatment technique(s).

There is a somewhat misguided perception in our society that the elderly are too fragile to touch. As experienced providers of geriatric massage, we believe that the oldest among us deserve to be touched in a sensitive, compassionate and healing manner.

“Massage has made all the difference in how my health has improved,” explains Anita, a 70-year-old woman from Chicago’s Western Suburbs and client of Massage Therapy of Oak Park. “I used to have pain in my neck, shoulders and hips. I could never put on a purse with a strap because it hurt too much. I can do that now. I can’t thank Rick enough! He has been the biggest factor in helping me take care of myself.”

Characteristics of Geriatric Massage

Geriatric massage uses many of the same basic massage techniques as general massage. However, it is tailored to the specific health conditions and needs of a client. In general, geriatric massage has the following characteristics:

Short Sessions

A geriatric massage session usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes, but can be schedule for longer if the patient and licensed massage therapist feel that it is advisable.

Use of Gentle Hand Motions

Gentle hand motions are comfortable and soothing to the body. They are designed to improve blood circulation and heart function, prevent diabetic complications, relieve muscle tension and relax the body and mind.

Passive Movement and Gentle Stretching

Passive movement and gentle stretching of the shoulders, legs and feet can improve joint mobility and flexibility in the elderly.

Massaging of the Hands and Feet

Gentle massaging of the hands and feet can help prevent stiffness and relieve pain.

Friction and Pressure Strokes

Occasional use of stronger movements, such as friction and pressure strokes, can be used to improve the flexibility of specific areas (e.g., shoulders, neck).

Benefits of Geriatric Massage

We work closely with you, your loved ones and any associated healthcare professionals to become an integral part of the healthcare continuum by providing:

  • Improved blood circulation (can help prevent complications of diabetes like leg ulcers and gangrene)
  • Improved lymph circulation
  • Increased range of motion for stiff joints
  • Injury prevention (increased flexibility and stability can help prevent falls)
  • Reduction of muscle adhesions (i.e., knots)
  • Pain relief
  • Relief of anxiety, depression and loneliness
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Headache relief
  • Improved quality of life

Categories of Geriatric Massage

Robust Older Adults

They engage in regular vigorous activity and can be as fit or fitter than everyone else. These folks don’t necessarily require special massage techniques.

Age-Appropriate Older Adults

They have the normal aches and pains that come with getting older and usually one or more physical issues that require special attention. This group can benefit greatly from geriatric massage.

Frail Older Adults

They have numerous physical issues that can be addressed with geriatric massage. For example, someone wheelchair-bound may have numerous muscular and joint issues. Those with lung issues can benefit from spreading the muscles between the ribs and diaphragm. Additionally, frail older adults can have psychosocial issues, such as touch deprivation, isolation and depression. Geriatric massage can provide a great deal of relief.

Common Questions About Geriatric Massage

Won’t older people feel uncomfortable taking their clothes off?

We are flexible in our approach to geriatric massage. Some clients choose to leave their clothes on, while others are comfortable with the typical level of undress.

My mother is very frail and ill. Could a massage be dangerous?

Geriatric massage can be a wonderful addition to her healthcare. She can remain in bed, leave her pajamas on and request a light-pressure technique that still provides health benefits.

Can massage replace exercise?

No. Massage complements exercise. It can assist in loosening joints and stretching muscles, but it is not a substitute for walking, biking, swimming or other activities that burn calories, raise the heart rate and build muscle.

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Massage has made all the difference in how my health has improved. I used to have pain in my neck, shoulders and hips. I could never put on a purse with a strap because it hurt too much. I can do that now. I can’t thank Rick enough! He has been the biggest factor in helping me take care of myself.


Client, Western Chicago