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What Type of Massage Is Best for Chronic Pain?

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A senior man lying down on a massage table while a therapist is standing behind him and giving him a massage.

Healthy habits, such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all important parts of living your best life during your golden year. But sometimes chronic pain—whether due to a condition like arthritis or simply a bad back from years of hard work—makes this easier said than done.

There are certainly exercises a senior can do to help alleviate some aches and pains. But another thing that could bring relief is massage therapy. Deep tissue massage, trigger point massage, and Swedish massage may all be good options for alleviating chronic pain.

But there isn’t a one-size answer to which will be best for your particular situation. Fortunately, finding a qualified massage therapist isn’t usually very difficult. In fact, some senior communities may offer easy access to them—on-site or off—as part of their services and amenities offerings.

What Is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is a part of integrative medicine, which is essentially a holistic approach to medicine. It’s typically performed by a licensed massage therapist who is an expert on the body’s soft tissue and skeletal systems.

The therapist manipulates soft tissue, including muscle, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments with varying movements and pressure. Massage therapy can relax tense and sore muscles and provide an overall sense of calm and relaxation in the individual’s body. But it can also help improve immune system strength and reduce pain.

Types of Massage Therapy

There isn’t one specific massage that will be “best” for treating chronic pain. The type and cause of the pain are significant factors in what types of massage therapy may be most beneficial. The following are a few common types of massage and how they can benefit a senior dealing with chronic pain.

Swedish Massage

A Swedish massage is what most people envision when they hear “massage therapy.” It’s sometimes referred to as a classic massage. This type of massage is much more gentle than a deep tissue massage, making it a great choice for people who want a relaxing massage for tension relief in tight muscles.

A traditional Swedish massage typically involves the whole body. So, it’s less targeted on specific muscles or pain—unless the massage therapist focuses on certain areas.

The gentle techniques of a Swedish massage can help relax your body, stimulate nerve endings, and increase blood flow and lymph drainage. Individuals with chronic pain in their lower back, shoulders, and neck may find this type of massage beneficial—especially if they are looking for something relaxing with minimal discomfort.

Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage can still provide relaxation like a Swedish massage. But this massage has a much deeper focus—the treatment of musculoskeletal problems, such as strains or other sports injuries.

The massage therapist’s goal is to apply the right amount of pressure to target the inner layers of muscle and connective tissue. This provides several benefits, such as breaking up scar tissue from a previous injury, releasing tense muscles, increasing blood flow, inflammation reduction, and improving your body’s natural healing ability.

Researchers performed a study several years ago to determine what (if any) effect deep tissue massage had on chronic pain—specifically chronic lower back pain. They found there was a significant improvement in pain levels in individuals who were previously using pain and anti-inflammatory medications often.

Acupressure Massage

You may have heard of acupuncture therapy where a qualified professional places thin needles in specific areas of the body with the goal of relieving pain. This may not appeal to everyone. But a similar less “invasive” form of therapy is called acupressure massage. It takes many of the same principles without any needles.

The massage therapist targets specific areas of the body to apply direct pressure. There is some debate on how exactly acupressure benefits the body. More traditional Chinese medicine views would argue that the pressure points change the body’s energy. But a more Western approach would say the benefit is in muscle tension relief, improved circulation, or the release of endorphins—natural pain relievers in the body.

Regardless of which view one has, acupressure massage therapy may be a great way to deal with chronic pain in your body.

Myofascial Release Massage

Throughout your body, you have tissue surrounding and supporting your muscles called myofascial tissue. Myofascial release therapy is a form of massage that is often used to treat chronic pain from myofascial pain syndrome.

Myofascial release doesn’t necessarily target the specific point or area that is causing the pain. But by gently releasing this tissue it can help the larger network of muscles in the area. So, it can make a great option for someone who deals with chronic headaches. And it can also be used in conjunction with another massage, such as a deep tissue massage.

A group of seniors doing yoga outdoors with their hands raised while sitting.

Find Senior Living that Fits Your Needs

We’re all familiar with the aches and pains that seem to come with aging. But dealing with chronic pain is a different thing altogether.It’s important to find a senior community that supports a holistic approach to healthy aging, which could include massage therapy. Contact our office today, and let the compassionate team at Merryvale Assisted Living show you how they can make your retirement the best it can be.

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