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Pediatric Massage

By Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT

About the Columnist
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Pediatric Sports Massage

Tips for Working with Young Athletes

For children, summertime can be great fun and full of memories, while at the same time, providing a much needed break from their daily routine including late sleep-in mornings and lots of outdoor play. For children who participate in many physical activities, such as swimming, baseball and soccer, they may be perfect candidates to receive the many benefits of pediatric massage therapy. 

Although many children can naturally perform well in sports and play physical games with ease, their bodies may experience muscle tightness, pain or limitations in range of motion.

It is not unusual for professional athletes to think of receiving massage therapy to increase and improve their performance, but what about children? Pediatric massage therapy can provide a gentle therapeutic approach to addressing many of the same athletic concerns, while at the same time introducing growing children to a preventative method to relieve aches and pains as they exercise.

The benefits of massage therapy may vary based on the individual receiving the therapy, as well as, the practitioner providing it. For children, it is imperative that they are treated by a qualified therapist, one who has certification and training specifically focused on safely addressing the concerns of the pediatric population.

Pediatric Sports Massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Children's bodies are constantly growing and changing. Their muscles, soft tissues and bones are not as developed when compared to those of an adult. To provide a touch therapy session, a practitioner would often provide treatment that would utilize less pressure, slower pacing and an overall shorter session duration. To effectively treat the child's soft tissues, a therapist does not need to use a heavy handed approach to stimulate the affect of massage.

With pediatric massage, a therapist can help the serious or casual child athlete reach their full potential. Through the use of professional pediatric massage we may comfort pains, decrease potential injury, increase agility and aid in a more restful sleep,  while at the same helping them to focus and concentrate more fully.

Many athletes receive massage therapy treatments pre- and post-athletic workout and competition. Athletes often incorporate sports massage into their therapy and training programs. Some of the reasons, athletes find massage therapy a valuable addition to their healthcare plan include;

  • Promotion of mental and physical relaxation.
  • Improvements in range of motion, mobility and flexibility.
  • Aids in pain management and reduced/delayed muscle soreness.
  • May gently warm the muscles prior to exercise and may help to prevent injuries due to overuse.

Pediatric massage therapists who elect to incorporate sports massage into their treatment plan for children need to have a good understanding of the child's physical development, treatment goals, activity level, and pediatric sports massage therapy prior to including it into their practice. Good tips to remember include:

Always use draping that would be considered very modest and does not cause unneeded exposure. Children may always remain clothed/fully clothed during massage.

  • Follow all known contraindications and precautions to pediatric massage therapy.
  • Ensure the child has eaten and is properly hydrated prior to beginning the massage session.
  • Use the correct, gentle modalities and touch therapy techniques that will help you to follow the treatment plan and meet the goals of the session.
  • Perform a thorough health intake form and assessment to create a treatment plan and goals for the session(s).
  • Explain to the child that they can direct the session and express any pain, discomfort, and concerns as the session continues.
  • Do not provide massage to a pediatric client without their parent or guardian present.
  • Do not use a heavy handed approach or too much pressure when providing massage for children.
  • Do not provide any massage therapy techniques which cause the child any pain or discomfort.
  • Do not continue massage therapy with the child if they express that they are feeling dizzy, nauseous or complain of headache.

You will often find pediatric massage therapists providing safe and effective techniques at high school athletic events, sports competitions, rehabilitative clinics and even at the Olympics. For many athletes, massage has become a necessary part of their training and recovery process. Massage therapy can contribute to the health and wellness for a professional child athlete, in the same way as a casual athlete, and should be considered as a safe adjunct to a comprehensive pediatric healthcare plan.

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