We have talked about yoga and weight training for seniors in past articles. In this article, we want to share information about massage and soft tissue bodywork that can help seniors relieve pain and maintain flexibility, mobility, strength and function. These therapies can allow you a better quality of life with relatively little investment of money and time, and can sometimes be covered by health insurance or Medicare.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “I feel like I’m held together by baling wire,” which is usually meant to describe aches and pains in the muscles and joints. We are indeed held together by baling wire. Ligaments hold our skeletons together, with a lot of cross wiring of nerves, and with tendons attaching muscles to the bones.

As we age, our bodies accumulate battle scars of living that turn into painful tightness and limited mobility. Tendons and nerves can become injured and inflamed in numerous ways, either acutely through a specific accident, or building up over years.

Whether you were a gardener or builder/tradesman or lobsterman or athlete, or especially if you worked for years in a sitting position in front of a typewriter or computer or driving a truck, by the time we hit our 50s and 60s, our bodies become altered by wear and tear and can develop depressing limitations on functional mobility and strength.

There are many forms of massage offered by various types of practitioners. We are talking about specific therapeutic bodywork methods that are more than a typical “feel-good” massage. Steve has had very positive experiences with the active release technique over the last 17 years with four different practitioners in California and Maine. Jill has had positive experiences with craniosacral therapy over many years. Another example is myofascial release.

Physical therapists, chiropractors and licensed massage therapists who receive training and certification may perform these methods. There are Midcoast practitioners of these methods who can be incredibly helpful with pain and mobility issues. Especially if you are considering surgery for pain and mobility issues, it is worth your time and money to investigate these noninvasive treatments beforehand. You will know fairly quickly whether the treatment can help you.

People usually associate their pains with muscles, or with joint symptoms from arthritis. Another type of problem in aging bodies occurs when tendons become scarred and entrapped so that they do not move smoothly through the tendon sheaths. Tendons are a tough fiber that attaches muscles to bone. For example, the muscles of the neck have tendons that attach to the spine, and on the other end attach to the upper ribs.

Picture the brake cable on a bicycle. The cable runs through a sheath from the handle bar to the brakes. If the cable becomes rusted inside, it will not slide through the sheath and the brakes won’t work.

In your body, the tendons can become “rusted” with scar tissue, and it then hurts to move your neck or shoulders or any area affected. The narrowing of bony tunnels from the spine or other areas can also compress and entrap tendons and nerves. Sciatica is an example.

Tendon and/or nerve entrapment in the neck, shoulders, elbows, arms or wherever will cause tremendous pain and limited mobility and strength. Limited mobility becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. We can’t raise our arms to reach into a cupboard. We can’t bend over to touch the floor, and things can progress in our later years to difficulty walking, or standing up straight, or getting dressed, or showering ourselves. Left untreated these become chronic and progressive problems thought of as “getting old.”

Tendon and nerve entrapments and other muscular problems can often be successfully treated with bodywork. Not treating them leads to a deterioration of your posture; creates muscle imbalances; and alters your gait. Each of these issues leads to other problems. Seeking treatment will help you preserve the architecture of your body, help keep you functionally strong and mobile, and give you a much better quality of life.

Jill Wallace is the owner and director of Elm Street Assisted Living in Topsham. Steve Raymond is director of community outreach at the Lincoln Home in Newcastle, and the producer and host of the television show “Spotlight on Seniors.”