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Massage and Children’s Health

Once considered to be a luxury for the wealthy, massage therapy has since come a long way from the days of ancient Greece and Rome. Massage is not only available now to women, the elderly, and people of all social status, but it is making waves in children’s health as well.

Every year, more and more women discover the joys and benefits of pregnancy massage. As the word spreads, more doctors are also jumping on the band wagon and recommending massage to their patients or referring them to a specialized facility. Receiving massages during pregnancy is more than just a relaxing escape, it can play an important role in the newborn’s development and health. Remember, what mommy experiences during those nine months, the baby does, too. Pre-natal massage can help the baby regulate sleeping patters, it stimulates blood flow and nerve function, and aids in muscle development. Some women have even commandeered help from therapists who specialize in pre, neo, and post-natal massage.

Worldwide, therapists are adding a specialty in Infant Massage to their resume, expanding their usual demographic. These therapists are also trained in teaching families how to safely and effectively massage their newborns. Infant massage can act as a strong bonding and attachment tool between parent and child, while helping to promote relaxation, improving sensory and motor function, facilitating deeper and longer sleep, assisting in vocal development, stimulating the circulatory and GI systems, assisting in pain relief, and enhancing neurological and muscular function and development. According to studies done by many medical and massage researchers, massage has proven to promote weight gain in pre-term infants as well. Learning to massage your children at a very early age is an extremely helpful tool to help parents get to know their children and strengthen the emotional connection, sense of security, and trust between then

Whether your child received massage as a new born or not, its benefits don’t have an age limit. Touch is the first sense developed in humans and is crucial to our health and well-being, it plays a big role in how we view and interact with the outside world. Children who experience positive touch by their care givers mature with a healthy self-esteem, a sense of appropriate personal boundaries, and long-lasting intimate relationships. Many adults use massage as a relief from stress and tension, at the same time, massage can have those same effects on children in every stage of development. The stimulation of a massage may trigger muscular and cellular responses as well as brain synapses that remain intact throughout their lives. By improving circulation, respiration, digestion, and waste elimination, massage promotes a sense of comfort in your baby and makes them less prone to colic. Research has shown that toddlers who receive massage take better and longer naps, and are less likely to act out with bad behavior.

More recently, studies and tests are being done to show how massage can be beneficial, if not imperative, in the health, recovery, and coping skills of children who are terminally ill or have disabling diseases. Massage has already been proven to enhance the quality of life for adults living with cancer or HIV/AIDS; fortunately, our little ones can enjoy the same benefits. Aside from promoting vascular, muscular, nervous, and internal function, massage can have a profound effect on one’s psyche. It can aid in bodily awareness and movement, psychological stability, and emotional recognition and release. Massage reduces pain and anxiety in children with cancer, improves range of motion in children with injuries and burns, and lessens pre- and post-operation anxiety. Thanks to organizations like Integrative Touch for Kids (integrativetouch.org), we can better understand how to integrate holistic touch therapies in the treatment of ailing children.

In a world where parents are increasingly looking for healthier, more cost efficient ways to help their children start their lives on a healthy path, massage therapy is certainly an effective option. The more research that is done, the easier is it to understand how massage effect people of all age groups and health status. Researching how massage effects children can be an important component of understanding massage treatment and benefits to the human population as a whole.

Everywhere you go, you hear the common catch phrase “It’s best to start them young”; massage therapy is no exception.

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