Children and Massage
“Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida who has worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children.
Massage is not a new concept; infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures.
• Touch is the first sense to develop in humans. It is essential to our health and well-being.
• Massage is a wonderful stress-buster for children. Benefits of massage therapy is a reduction in stress and stress hormone levels: “There is a relationship between stress and the immune system. If stress hormones are chronically elevated, the [hormone] cortisol will destroy the healthy immune cells that keep the immune system healthy and fight viruses and tumors. If you can reverse that, you not only reduce stress but also reduce stress hormones, allowing the immune system to bounce back and do its job, which is to heal the body and keep it healthy.”
• Preschoolers have shown better performance on tests of their intellectual and manual skills after a 15-minute massage. They also slept better during naps, were less likely to be overactive, and had better behaviour ratings. For teens struggling with the growing pains of adolescence, massage helps relieve anxiety by producing a state of relaxation. A supportive relationship with a massage therapist who gives them safe, unconditional touch can also increase their feelings of self-acceptance and self-confidence during those trying years.
• Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibited less hyperactivity and more on-task behaviour, and generally were happier with regular massage treatments.
• For autistic children, there was a decrease in touch sensitivity and disruptive behaviour, and increased ability to relate to their teachers. Adolescents suffering from bulimia had improved body image and decreased depression and anxiety, while teen psychiatric patients experienced improved sleep and clinical progress as well as decreased depression, anxiety, and stress.
By Shirley Vanderbilt
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring 2003.