Geriatric Massage Therapy May Complement the Relief of Undiagnosed Pain
As time passes and the body ages, the transition into the golden years of life is complex both physically and psychologically. For many people the change can be a rather painful experience. The onset of various problems––reduction in motion, increased sensitivity, feelings of helplessness and social isolation––are, unfortunately, well-known among the population. Perhaps one of the most burdensome consequences of aging is the increased tendency of pain to go undiagnosed by medical practitioners, caretakers, nurses, and family members.
Undiagnosed pain afflicts older individuals more than any other demographic for several reasons. Older adults, because of their declining health, are more susceptible to diseases like fibromyalgia, gout, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other ailments like vitamin deficiencies. But even in the absence of disease, medical professionals and caretakers may still fail to diagnose and treat pain. Because pain is often seen as an inevitable part of aging––a debatable claim––physicians may be overly lax in their diagnoses of older patients, while nurses and caretakers may downplay the reports of aging individuals.
Furthermore, older patients who are cognitively impaired may fail to report their pain accurately. Some older individuals may even keep their pain secret, because they are concerned about the self-perception as a “bad patient.” And both physicians and patients may be reluctant to pursue painkiller or opioid use even when it may be warranted. All of these social and medical factors lead to the under-treatment of pain among the aging.
As nurses (if in a hospital or long-term care facility) or family members spend the most time with aging individuals, both groups should keep a close watch over their behavior for any signs of undiagnosed pain. If such pain can be reported or observed accurately, there are options for pain relief, one of which is massage therapy. The exact kind of massage therapy given depends on the patient’s health and the type of pain to be relieved.
Generally, however, most kinds of geriatric massage therapy involve medical massage and therapeutic massage, which can either directly treat an illness or indirectly improve a patient’s feeling of wellness. Hot/cold treatments and acupressure are also sometimes used to supplement massage therapy. Although geriatric massage therapy can be relieving on its own, it is most effective in conjunction with analgesics or painkillers, physical rehabilitation, and the improvement of diet and lifestyle choices. Emotional and psychological support from family members, support groups, and organized recreational activities may also prove beneficial for the aging.
Massage therapy may also encourage a sense of trust between patient and caretaker, which is crucial since older individuals are susceptible to symptoms of depression and loneliness. However, massage therapy may not be the best form of complementary care for some ailments. Bed-ridden patients with bed sores, for example, do not usually respond well to massage therapy, and massage may even make the pain for bed sores worse. As with any medical practice, professional consultation and accurate pain assessment are necessary before pursuing massage therapy.
The Massage Center offers its own modality of geriatric massage therapy, known as Treatment #13 “Senior Moments.” Note that for this treatment, the patient remains appropriately draped so that only the essential areas of the body are exposed. Patients may bring a family member or other trusted individual during the massage session to ensure a comfortable, secure, and relaxing experience.
Hanks-Bell, Mimi, et al. “Pain Assessment and Management in Aging.” Online Journal of Issues in Nursing 9.3 (2004): 1-18. ProQuest Central. Web. 31 May 2013.
Hirakawa, Yoshihisa, et al. “ Effects of Home Massage Rehabilitation Therapy for the Bed-ridden Elderly: A Pilot Trial with a Three Month Follow-up.” Clinical Rehabilitation 19 (2005): 20-27. ProQuest Central. Web. 31 May 2013.
Joseph Flaherty, et al. “Use of Alternative Therapies in Older Outpatients in the United States and Japan: Prevalence, Reporting Patterns, and Perceived Effectiveness.” Journal of Gerontology: MEDICAL SCIENCES 56A.10 (2001): M650-M655. ProQuest Central. Web. 31 May 2013.
Article submitted by: Dan Abella Content Writer The Massage Center