Can Massage Alleviate Bed Sores?

Ask a Therapist

By Editorial Staff

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2006.

Q My elderly father, who is paraplegic and confined to bed, has recently had some trouble with pressure sores, even though he sleeps on an air mattress and is turned every two hours throughout the night. Can massage be helpful in alleviating these sores?

A Bodyworker Cynthia Bologna of Petaluma, Calif., specializes in massage therapy for clients with life-threatening illnesses. She spends much of her time in nursing home situations and says, “Massage can be a wonderful tool for someone who is having troubling pressure sores, commonly known as ‘bed sores.’ Sores of this type usually appear in someone who remains in one position for long stretches. That is why having your father turned from one side, to his back, to his other side every two hours is ideal. This gives his body the ability to recuperate from the physical pressure of remaining still and unmoved.

“However, pressure sores still can occur if circulation is poor. Your father has two conditions that might be exacerbating this: paraplegia, in which he has no feeling or voluntary movement in his lower extremities, and being elderly. Age often slows down a person’s circulatory functioning making the healing of sores slower, too.

“Massage to the surrounding areas, but not on the sores themselves, can increase blood flow, thus helping the sores to heal. I would recommend two, 15-minute sessions daily, not overly vigorous but enough to get his blood moving, and no deep pressure. A weekly or biweekly visit from a certified massage therapist providing longer sessions might also help speed the healing. Also be mindful of using lotion since you don’t want it to get anywhere near the sores, even if they are covered with bandages.”