Massage therapists who see a geriatric clientele know, first-hand, the benefits of touch. A new research review shows hand-and-back massage therapy promotes relaxation in elderly people.

“In recent years, the nursing profession used technology and pharmacology to relieve conditions such as pain, anxiety and insomnia that were once treated with massage,” the researchers noted, in a report published on “However, interest in massage has grown with the move to more holistic nursing.”

The review examined the physiological and psychological effects of slow-stroke back massage and hand massage on relaxation in older people and identifies effective protocols for massage in older people, the pubmed report noted. Twenty-one studies met the inclusion criteria for massage, relevance to older people and rigorous research.

All studies using slow-stroke back massage and hand massage showed statistically significant improvements on physiological or psychological indicators of relaxation, the report noted. The most common protocols were three-minute, slow-stroke back massage and 10-minute hand massage.

Studies are needed to analyze the feasibility and cost effectiveness of massage to develop best practices for massage interventions in older people, the researchers noted.

The review is published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

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