From babies to Baby Boomers and beyond - the holistic benefits of massage are not confined to patients of any particular age. In fact, the ancient practice of massage has been shown to improve overall health in people at every stage of life, regardless of their background, age or occupation.
That being said, the medical community is increasingly cognisant of the particular ways children may benefit from massage - how optimizing the body’s performance can help support crucial stages of growth and development.
While enrolled in massage college, students receive both theoretical and hands-on instruction in pediatric massage, which prepares them to work with infants, toddlers and teens, reinforcing their physical health while sowing the seeds for a lifetime of balanced wellbeing.
We often think of stress as an adult affliction; but the truth is that even very young children experience anxiety. Starting kindergarten, changing schools, or other life-changing events such as divorce or the death of a family member - all are facts of life most young people must learn to cope with as they progress toward maturity.
During their massage therapy training, students learn to administer Swedish massage, a relaxing, gentle modality well suited to young children. Regular Swedish massage has long been established as a powerful antidote to recurring stress. By encouraging cortisol levels to fall, and dopamine and serotonin levels to rise, massage therapy facilitates both emotional wellbeing and an empowered immune system. Chronically elevated cortisol (caused by persistent stress) actually destroys cells that the body needs to kill threatening invaders. When cortisol is lowered, the body is better equipped to marshal its defenses and more effectively heal itself - so important during those school-age years when children are bombarded by a wide range of pathogens, not to mention plenty of daily stressors.
Tummy ache is a common complaint among young children - and quite often a source of worry for parents. Although gastroenteritis, over-eating, or a food intolerance are common offenders, constipation is the most likely culprit when it comes to abdominal pain in children. Rather than relying solely on laxatives, many parents turn to massage therapy to sooth stomach ache due to digestive dysfunction. Gentle abdominal massage may alleviate colic in newborns and can be helpful in addressing other digestive issues that arise as children mature. Under the guidance of a RMT, parents can learn to administer the technique at home, perhaps avoiding an unnecessary trip to the ER or another missed day of school.
It takes some people years to discover the benefits of massage therapy and incorporate regular treatment into their healthcare routine. On the other hand, children who are exposed to massage at an early age may develop an intrinsic appreciation for its capacity to both sooth and strengthen the body. As a growing number of Canadians succumb to stress (and stress related disease), it is more important than ever to reinforce healthy habits for a more balanced lifestyle - a practice best begun in childhood.
This way, massage therapy education extends beyond the college and the clinic to the family household, passed down from parent to child as a potent complement to current best practices in healthcare.
Do you know of other ways children may benefit from massage therapy?