Pediatric massage is massage and touch therapy that is specifically created and adapted for children and adolescents. Pediatric massage therapists have additional training that prepares us to work with kids and teens in a skillful manner that takes into account age, developmental stage, and the specific needs and goals of the child, family, and broader healthcare team.
There are many times when massage may be beneficial. Physical complaints and conditions like headaches, muscle hypertonicity and contractures, low muscle tone, injuries, and chronic pain can be responsive to massage.
Research1 also supports the use of massage for conditions like ADHD, Autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, anxiety, and depression. Several studies showed outcomes including lower levels of anxiety, increased attentive and on-task behaviors, a reduction in touch aversive and aggressive behaviors, and the promotion of healthy sleep patterns.
Many of these benefits arise from the impact that touch has on the nervous system. Touch using moderate pressure stimulates nerve endings called mechanoreceptors in the skin. These nerve endings communicate with the vagus nerve and increase vagal activity. Increased vagal activity is associated with a parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system state. When the body is in this state, helpful hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are released and the amount of cortisol in the body decreases.2
In addition to these potential benefits, massage therapy is noninvasive and has no side effects. Education is provided during sessions to teach parents and/or caregivers on ways to utilize techniques at home, as well as to empower the child to establish healthy body awareness and autonomy.
If you have questions about your child’s health and ability to receive massage therapy, please consult with your child’s healthcare practitioner.
1 Field, T. Pediatric massage therapy research: A narrative review. Children.2019. 6(6), 78. https://doi.org/10.3390/children6060078
2 Diego, M.; Field, T. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. International Journal of Neuroscience. 119(5), 630–638. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450802329605