As we age, a natural reduction in flexibility and balance take place, leaving us at risk for falls and potential injury. Staying proactive is vital for aging adults, and there are many resources available to assist in balance and flexibility training. Massage Therapist Jeff Forman, PhD, BCTMB and colleagues recently set out to establish a new balance training regimen combined with massage for to help anyone age gracefully. Their study focused on the effects eccentric resistance combined with massage treatment on ankle flexibility and balance in older adults.

Elastic Resistance and Massage Therapy for Balance Training

In their study, thirty-one adults aged 50-65 had their balance measured with the Sway Balance™ mobile application. Holding the device against the center of his or her chest, each subject was analyzed while standing with feet together, in tandem, and on one foot for 10 sec each. Data collected included sway measures from each stance along with ankle dorsi- and plantar-flexion flexibility.

After base measurements were taken, the participants then underwent the 15-minute intervention. Each person received:

  • A 2.5 minute warm-up massage to each foot, ankle, and lower leg,
  • A 2.5 min stripping massage on each tibialis anterior muscle while eccentrically resisting an TheraBand CLX elastic resistance band (also known as “Active Muscle Therapy”)
  • A 2.5 min massage with resistance on the gastrocnemius/soleus groups.

The participants in the study achieved improvements in all measurements tested:

  • Balance scores increased 4.8%
  • All measures of flexibility improved
  • 15.4% increase in dorsiflexion
  • 9.6% increase in plantar flexion
  • 12.5% increase in overall ankle range of motion.

Dr. Forman will be presenting his Active Muscle Therapy research featuring TheraBand resistance at the International Massage Therapy Research Conference in Seattle May 12-15, 2016. To learn more about Active Muscle Therapy, find Dr. Forman’s workshops near you.

Have you experimented with massage or elastic resistance in balance training? Share in the comments and pass along to a colleague in need!


Effects of massage combined with eccentric resistance on ankle flexibility and balance in adults aged 50-60 years (Abstract). Forman J et al. 2016. J Bodywork Movement Ther 20(1):147

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