Massage for children and teens
Over the past few months I have had a number of clients enquire about massage for their children for various reasons, from sports-related injuries to management of ongoing conditions. I am very supportive of parents wanting to explore massage as a therapeutic approach for their children.
Touch is an important part of health and wellbeing, being one of the first of our senses to develop. Broadly speaking, many of the benefits of massage therapy for children are the same as for adults – increasing blood flow, promoting muscle repair, calming the nervous system, decreasing muscle tension and pain, and improving range of movement and immune system function. However, there is a growing amount of research being done specifically on the effects of massage therapy on children and particular conditions.
Research is suggesting that it is beneficial for conditions such as ADD/ADHD and Autism. Results from studies indicate that it reduces hyperactivity, improves mood, sleep and anger control, and also improves social functioning and task focus in class. For children who are anxious or going through stressful situations - at school, dealing with grief or change, or having to cope with chronic illness involving frequent hospital visits and painful medical treatment, massage can be a useful tool in reducing stress hormone levels and improving their sleep.
Recent research on the effects of massage therapy on children with cancer going through bone marrow aspiration has shown there were significant decreases in pain and anxiety among those receiving massage. In another study on children with Asthma, findings show that lung function was improved with massage.
Massage can help teenagers going through adolescent growing pains by balancing unstable hormones and improving mood. It can also relieve pain associated with conditions such as Osgood–Schlatter disease, a condition associated with growth spurts in athletic children which involves irritation and inflammation at the insertion of the quadriceps tendon over the knee.
In my experience of working with children to date, I find that they become very relaxed, often drifting off during the session. Through feedback from parents and the children themselves, I can report that they thoroughly enjoy massage therapy and find it helps with their muscle tension, pain and sleep. They are also great to work with – because they don’t have the same filters that we as adults often have, they can be very specific about their symptoms, and give direct feedback during sessions. I always encourage the parent to be present as I explain to them what I’m doing, why and what I’m finding during the session. Plus it's good to go over any homecare and exercises with both child and parent afterwards, to provide the parent with information to help the child with this.
Getting children used to having massage reinforces the benefits of looking after oneself and promotes the benefits of massage at an early age.If you are a parent wondering if massage is an appropriate treatment option for your child, I am more than happy to discuss your child’s needs with you, along with an affordable rate
Abdel Fattah, M., & Hamdy, B. (2011). Pulmonary functions of children with asthma improve following massage therapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(11), 1065-1068.
Çelebioğlu, A., Gürol, A., Yildirim, Z. K., & Büyükavci, M. (2014). Effects of massage therapy on pain and anxiety arising from intrathecal therapy or bone marrow aspiration in children with cancer. International journal of nursing practice.
Escalona, A., Field, T., Singer-Strunk, R., Cullen, C., & Hartshorn, K. (2001). Brief report: Improvements in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 513-516.
Ewart, H. (2002). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Why massage Works. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/adhd.html
Maddigan, B., Hodgson, P., Heath, S., Dick, B., St. John, K., McWilliam-Burton, T., … White, H. (2003). The Effects of Massage Therapy & Exercise Therapy on Children/Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 12(2), 40–43.
Touch Research Institute. (n.d.). Research at TRI: Child Massage. Retrieved from https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/ChildMassage.html
Vanderbilt, S. (2003). Children and Massage: A Powerful Combination. Retrieved from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/470/Children-and-Massage