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> Home > Articles by Tina Allen > Prader-Willi Syndrome and Massage

Prader-Willi Syndrome and Massage

by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016

Massage can be beneficial for many infants and children.  For infants with Prader-Willi syndrome it is possible that massage may help provide appropriate stimulation for the circulatory and digestive systems, improve muscle tone and aide in sleep.

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is the most common genetic cause of life-threatening obesity in children.  Those diagnosed with PWS have an issue with the function of their hypothalamus.  This part of the brain normally controls feelings of being full or hungry.  As a result of this dysfunction of the brain, in the second stage of PWS children are likely not to feel full and will eat constantly unless well monitored.


Newborns diagnosed with PWS display quite different symptoms. As infants they often have low muscle tone, which can affect their ability to suck properly.  This makes it nearly impossible, to take in the appropriate nutrients.  Many times they may require feeding techniques to help them eat, and they have problems gaining weight. As the baby grows and develops, their strength and muscle tone usually improve.

Through massage we may be able to provide much needed support to infants with Prader-Willi syndrome.  Weight gaining issues may be improved through the stimulation of the Vagus nerve and the growth hormones that are then produced to help absorb the appropriate nutrients in the body.   By providing massage on the face, especially the lips, cheeks and jaw you help to encourage muscle stimulation, strength, development and proper sucking and feeding.

Massage stimulates all systems of the body.  Knowing that blood circulation is often poor for babies with PWS, massage can be beneficial in stimulating their circulatory system.

Constipation and bed-wetting are often symptoms of PWS.  Constipation may be aided by providing massage to the abdomen in a clockwise circular motion.  Bed-wetting is often caused by hypotonia and sleep issues.  Hypotonia, or low muscle tone, can be improved, and muscle tone increased, through the use of massage therapy.  Often when infants receive massage therapy they sleep for deeper and longer periods of time which may contribute to more restful and sound sleep for the infant with PWS.

It is important to consider massage therapy as one important part of the therapy plan for an infant with Prader-Willi Syndrome.  Massage can help to relieve pain, and contribute to providing ways of increasing mobility and muscle tone which are so important to infants with this syndrome.


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Specially trained Certified Pediatric Massage Therapists

lkf-cpmt-logo-144pxMassage 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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