Massage Can (Re-)Activate the Lower Limb Sensorimotor Representation of Older Adult Inpatients

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Understanding how changes in afferent signal processing may impact the sensorimotor processes is essential for physical therapists whose objective is to actively improve the reorganization of motor function in patients suffering from sensorimotor system disturbance. Because the sensorimotor processes are slowed with the advance in age, we examined whether a single massage session can reactivate the sensorimotor processes of older adult inpatients. Participants were randomly assigned to the experimental (with massage) or control (without massage) groups. Massage was realized on both feet with 7.30 min spent on each foot (Experiment 1), the right foot or the right foot and knee for 10 min (Experiment 2). Body and nonbody mental rotation tasks were used to assess the lower limb motor representation before (pretest), immediately after (Posttest 1) and 24 hr after the massage (Posttest 2). Results showed the positive impact of massage on the body mental rotation task. The activation of the sensorimotor processes can last up to 24 hr depending on the extent of the massaged area. Importantly, the activation of the sensorimotor representation concerned not only the massaged leg but also the contralateral leg. No difference between groups appeared in the nonbody mental rotation task which did not solicit the sensorimotor processes. These results highlighted that peripheral activation via a massage had a specific impact on the sensorimotor processes. Massage is an interesting technique which can help older adult inpatients cope with the slowdown of the signal processing related to advancing age.

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