by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016
Providing Pediatric Massage Therapy
Providing massage and touch therapy is within the scope of practice of many health care providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists. However, massage is not frequently practiced by these practitioners because of time constraints or lack of comfort with providing massage therapy. Qualified practitioners, who practice massage therapy for pediatric clients, and patients, provide numerous benefits to the child and improve their family’s satisfaction with the care their child receives. This compassionate care can also contribute to a positive healing environment, which has been shown to improve the satisfaction of members of the health care team.
Massage provides global benefits to a child’s health
The physical, psychological and emotional benefits of touch for infants, children and pediatric patients who are hospitalized have been well documented in published research studies. Equally documented are the effects of touch deprivation for hospitalized children.
Many health care providers have explored the use of massage for particular populations of children with special health care needs. Overall, the evidence that massage provides global benefits to a child’s health far outweighs any evidence of negative effects.
Sleep improves with massage therapy
There are numerous benefits for infants and children contributed to the use of massage and touch therapy. Some studies also show that infants diagnosed with complex medical conditions may find greater benefit from the intervention of massage therapy.
Evidence has shown that infants have increased healthy weight gain and respiratory function after they receive appropriate nurturing touch. Their time spent in the hospital has been decreased. Even the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep more deeply improves with massage therapy.
Consider providing hands-on care
For children with special healthcare needs, massage therapy is often used to improve muscle tone, joint mobility and respiratory functions. Additionally, as in infants, we also see improved respiration and sleep patterns. And, with the use of specific massage techniques gastrointestinal function improves (regular bowel movements). There are a number of children who are hospitalized simply due to constipation. Massage may be able to change this unfortunate situation.
As someone who cares for infants and young children, in a healthcare environment, surely you may wish to include appropriate nurturing touch into your daily care for the children in your setting. It is important to consider your role as a healthcare provider and consider providing hands-on care, as well as education to encourage families to provide this same care for their children when they are home. Becoming certified in pediatric massage therapy will provide you with the skills necessary to safely and effectively apply hands-on pediatric massage for children who are well, hospitalized or have special healthcare needs. If you receive your certification as an infant massage teacher, you will have the opportunity to provide families with information and hands-on lessons, so parents feel confident in providing massage for their own child. By encouraging and supporting nurturing touch you foster mutual respect, communication and understanding that lasts a lifetime.
Massage may be a supportive therapy that can be readily applied, most effectively by specially trained massage therapists or by parents who have learned massage techniques from a skilled, educated massage therapist. Pediatric massage and nurturing touch are the most appropriate massage techniques to use in this population. When using massage therapy for children with cancer, your work does not need to be aggressive to achieve its maximum potential.
For more information visit Comprehensive Pediatric Massage Training Course (CPMT)
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