Simple Tips for Massaging Pediatric Clients

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Tina Allen from Liddle Kidz Foundation at the American Massage Conference this last weekend in Chicago, IL. I asked Tina to explain some of the benefits of Pediatric Massage and a few simple tips that therapists could easily integrate into their practice even if they do not specialize in pediatric massage. She cautioned that therapist’s should always follow the child’s primary care provider’s treatment plan and should seek specialized training if they plan on promoting Pediatric Massage in their practice.

The numerous benefits that draw parents to seek Pediatric Massage for their children are that it can help with anxiety, sleep issues, peer pressure, body image and common discomforts of childhood including growing pains, tummy aches and stress. Pediatric Massage is nurturing touch performed with the child’s comfort in mind. The therapist needs to be relaxed and confident, while being attentive to details such as the child’s reaction to their touch and the need to education the parent on what they are doing and how the parent can take that home for the child’s benefit.

Many children experience tummy aches caused by stress, anxiety, constipation, nutrition and flatus. There are several great techniques therapist can perform to help the client relive this discomfort. The child needs to be in a comfortable position, typically supine or in a semi-reclined position. Therapist should make sure their hands are warm and that the initial touch is slow and gentle so the pediatric client can get comfortable with the therapist’s touch.

  • Therapist gently strokes the centerline - right below the xiphoid process- to just below the naval. Repeat 3 times keeping the child’s comfort in mind.

  • Perform a circular stroke beginning right below the xiphoid process moving clockwise around the abdomen. Repeat 3 times. While performing this movement the therapist should be mindful of the size of their hands in comparison to the child’s belly. Use finger tips for smaller children and fingers or palms for larger bellies.

  • Perform a half moon stroke to affect the descending colon. Stroke starts right below the xiphoid process and finish right below the naval.

  • Perform a “Rainbow” stroke by stroking from just inside the iliac crest on the right hip, up to the base of the ribs on the right, then stroking across to the same spot on the left side and down to the inside of the iliac crest on the left. Repeat 3 times.

  • Finish by repeating step 1.

For a children who experience anxiety, stress or trouble sleeping a simple technique that may help relax the nervous system would be to perform gentle strokes distally. These may be from the base of the occipital ridge to the top of the sacrum, from the transverse processes to the finger tips (can also go from the inside of the arm below the axillary to the fingertips across the palm), from the just above the knee to the toes both posteriorly and anteriorly. Strokes are gentle to firm. You don’t want it to be tickly. The stroke is firm, but not deep.

It is not unusual for parents to seek out therapists trained in Pediatric Massage for their children who are experiencing discomfort of some sort. That said, Tina believes that the number of therapists certified in Pediatric Massage is less than what is needed to serve the population. Pediatric Massage Certification can open many doors for therapists including opportunities to provide humanitarian aid in areas experiencing the consequences of natural disasters, working at resorts and in a variety of healthcare settings. Specialization and continuing education, whether Pediatric Massage or another modality, can expand a therapists target population and skill set. It is through this expansion that we can become more educated and able to serve our clients to the best of our abilities.