Pediatric massage is the complementary and alternative treatment that uses massage therapy, or "the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being" for children and adolescents. Its goal is to reduce pain, anxiety, loneliness and fear when children are hospitalized or diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition. Pediatric massage therapy takes into consideration each child's individual physical development, cognitive development and health care needs.
Infant massage is a type of complementary and alternative treatment that uses massage therapy for human infants. This therapy has been practiced globally, and has been increasingly used in Western countries as a treatment for infants, though the scientific evidence supporting its use is limited. Research into the effectiveness of massage therapy on full term infants has found some tentative evidence for some benefits such as gross motor skills, fine motor skills and psychomotor development, though the evidence is not strong enough to recommend universally, and more research is needed. Research in pre-term infants and low birth weight infants have found weak evidence that massage might improve weight gain, but these results are based on possibly biased studies and therefore no recommendation can be made for universal use.
Non-infant pediatric massage
- Reduced anxiety and tension
- Reduced pain 
- Improved long-range emotional and cognitive development
- Improved healing/immune function
- Relaxation for the parent/caregiver and baby/child
- Improved gastrointestinal functioning/relief of gas and constipation
- Improved sleep patterns
- Increased parent-child bonding (when parent administered)
- Increased confidence in parenting skills (when parent administered)
- Improved focus and attention span
Research shows that massage therapy can ease both physical symptoms as well as emotional discomforts associated with pediatric medical conditions. The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine is a primary medical research provider for massage and touch therapy, including pediatric massage and infant massage. Pediatric massage also can help manage chronic conditions such as asthma by providing relaxation and reducing muscle tone in the chest, back and neck, nausea, constipation and muscle aches (myalgia).
Immediately after receiving massage, children with mild to moderate juvenile rheumatoid arthritis notice decreased anxiety and stress hormone (cortisol) levels. For young patients with autism or ADHD, pediatric massage has been found to reduce their aversion to touch, while increasing their ability to focus. Pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis report feeling less anxious, and their ability to breathe and pulmonary functions improved.
Limitations in research
Like many other complementary and alternative medicine modalities, many research studies reporting benefit from pediatric massage have been small in scale and vulnerable to bias. Comprehensive medical reviews of the existing pediatric massage research reinforce the benefits, but ask for larger-scale, scientifically rigorous studies. Physicians are recommended to educate themselves and their patients about the empirically validated benefits and precautions associated with pediatric massage.
- Beider S, Mahrer NE, Gold JI (December 2007). "Pediatric massage therapy: an overview for clinicians". Pediatr. Clin. North Am. 54 (6): 1025–41; xii–xiii. PMID 18061789. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2007.10.001.
- Bennett, Cathy; Underdown, Angela; Barlow, Jane (2013-04-30). "Massage for promoting mental and physical health in typically developing infants under the age of six months". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD005038. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 23633323. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005038.pub3.
- Vickers A, Ohlsson A, Lacy JB, Horsley A (2004). "Massage for promoting growth and development of preterm and/or low birth-weight infants". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD000390. PMID 15106151. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000390.pub2.
- Field T.; Morrow C.; Valdeon C.; Larson S.; Kuhn C.; Schanberg S. (1992). "Massage reduces depression and anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients". Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 31: 125–131. doi:10.1097/00004583-199201000-00019.
- Field T.; Grizzle N.; Scafidi F.; Schanberg S. (1996). "Massage and relaxation therapies' effects on depressed adolescent mothers". Adolescence. 31: 903–911.
- Oz Mehmet C.; Whitworth Gerard C.; Liu Eric H. (1998). "Complementary Medicine in the Surgical Wards". JAMA. 279 (9): 710–711. doi:10.1001/jama.279.9.710-jms0304-5-1.
- Haun JN, Graham-Pole J, Shortley B (Jun 2009). "Children with cancer and blood diseases experience positive physical and psychological effects from massage therapy". Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2 (2): 7–14. doi:10.3822/ijtmb.v2i2.12.
- Hernandez-Reif M, Shor-Posner G, Baez J, Soto S, Mendoza R, Castillo R, Quintero N, Perez E, Zhang G (Sep 2008). "Dominican Children with HIV not Receiving Antiretrovirals: Massage Therapy Influences their Behavior and Development". Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 5 (3): 345–354. doi:10.1093/ecam/nem032.
- Hughes D, Ladas E, Rooney D, Kelly K (May 2008). "Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer". Oncol Nurs Forum. 35 (3): 431–42. doi:10.1188/08.onf.431-442.
- Pediatric massage therapy: an overview for clinicians. Beider S, Mahrer NE, Gold JI" Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6):1025-41.
- Mencía SB, López-Herce JC, Freddi N. "Analgesia and sedation in children: practical approach for the most frequent situations. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2007 May;83(2 Suppl):S71-82.
- Ali S, Drendel AL, Kircher J, Beno S (Jul 2010). "Pain management of musculoskeletal injuries in children: current state and future directions". Pediatr Emerg Care. 26 (7): 518–24. doi:10.1097/pec.0b013e3181e5c02b.
- Parlak Gürol A, Polat S, Akçay MN (May 2010). "Itching, pain, and anxiety levels are reduced with massage therapy in burned adolescents". J Burn Care Res. 31 (3): 429–32. doi:10.1097/bcr.0b013e3181db522c.
- Von Stülpnagel C, Reilich P, Straube A, Schäfer J, Blaschek A, Lee SH, Müller-Felber W, Henschel V, Mansmann U, Heinen F (Apr 2009). "Myofascial trigger points in children with tension-type headache: a new diagnostic and therapeutic option. J". Child Neurol. 24 (4): 406–9. doi:10.1177/0883073808324540.
- Diego MA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M (Apr 2009). "Procedural pain heart rate responses in massaged preterm infants". Infant Behav Dev. 32 (2): 226–9. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2008.12.001.
- Evans S, Tsao JC, Zeltzer LK (Sep 2008). "Complementary and alternative medicine for acute procedural pain in children". Altern Ther Health Med. 14 (5): 52–6.
- Suresh S, Wang S, Porfyris S, Kamasinski-Sol R, Steinhorn DM (Sep 2008). "Massage therapy in outpatient pediatric chronic pain patients: do they facilitate significant reductions in levels of distress, pain, tension, discomfort, and mood alterations?". Paediatr Anaesth. 18 (9): 884–7. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9592.2008.02638.x.
- Lowe RM, Hashkes PJ (Oct 2008). "Growing pains: a noninflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood". Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 4 (10): 542–9. doi:10.1038/ncprheum0903.
- Procianoy RS, Mendes EW, Silveira RC (Jan 2010). "Massage therapy improves neurodevelopment outcome at two years corrected age for very low birth weight infants". Early Hum Dev. 86 (1): 7–11. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2009.12.001.
- Kemper KJ, Shannon S (Dec 2007). "Complementary and alternative medicine therapies to promote healthy moods". Pediatr Clin North Am. 54 (6): 901–26. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2007.09.002.
- Zebracki K, Holzman K, Bitter KJ, Feehan K, Miller ML (Sep 2007). "Brief report: use of complementary and alternative medicine and psychological functioning in Latino children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis or arthralgia". J Pediatr Psychol. 32 (8): 1006–10. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsm033.
- Diego M.A.; Hernandez-Reif M.; Field T.; Friedman L.; Shaw K. (2001). "HIV adolescents show improved immune function following massage therapy". International Journal of Neuroscience. 106: 35–45. doi:10.3109/00207450109149736.
- Field T.; Cullen C.; Diego M.; Hernandez-Reif M.; Sprinz P.; Beebe K.; Kissel B.; Bango-Sanchez V. (2001). "Leukemia immune changes following massage therapy". Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 3: 1–5. doi:10.1054/jbmt.2001.0228.
- Pediatric massage therapy: an overview for clinicians. Beider S, Mahrer NE, Gold JI" Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6) 1025-41; xii-xiii. Review.
- Green AD, Alioto A, Mousa H, Di Lorenzo C (Apr 2011). "Severe pediatric rumination syndrome: successful interdisciplinary inpatient management". J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 52 (4): 414–8. doi:10.1097/mpg.0b013e3181fa06f3.
- Field T.; Morrow C.; Valdeon C.; Larson S.; Kuhn C.; Schanberg S. (1992). "Massage therapy reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients". Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 31: 125–130. doi:10.1097/00004583-199201000-00019.
- Field T.; Kilmer T.; Hernandez-Reif M.; Burman I. (1996). "Preschool Children's Sleep and Wake Behavior: Effects of massage therapy". Early Child Development and Care. 120: 39–44. doi:10.1080/0300443961200104.
- Cullen C.; Field T.; Escalona A.; Hartshorn K. (2000). "Father-infants interactions are enhanced by massage therapy". Early Child Development and Care. 164: 41–47. doi:10.1080/0300443001640104.
- Miller Laura J (2002). "Postpartum Depression". JAMA. 287 (6): 762–765. PMID 11851544. doi:10.1001/jama.287.6.762.
- Hart S.; Field T.; Hernandez-Reif M.; Lundy B. (1998). "Preschoolers' cognitive performance improves following massage". Early Child Development & Care. 143: 59–64. doi:10.1080/0300443981430105.
- Knapp Miland E (1960). "Physical Medicine in Rehabilitation for Arthritis in Children". JAMA. 174 (15): 1951–1953. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03030150039010.
- Field T.; Lasko D.; Mundy P.; Henteleff T.; Talpins S.; Dowling M. (1986). "Autistic children's attentiveness and responsitivity improved after touch therapy". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 27: 329–334.
- Escalona A.; Field T.; Singer-Strunck R.; Cullen C.; Hartshorn K. (2001). "Brief report: improvements in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy". Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders. 31: 513–516.
- Hartshorn K.; Olds L.; Field T.; Delage J.; Cullen C.; Escalona A. (2001). "Creative movement therapy benefits children with autism". Early Child and Development and Care. 166: 1–5. doi:10.1080/0300443011660101.
- Hernandez-Reif M.; Field T.; Krasnegor J.; Martinez E. (1999). "Cystic fibrosis symptoms are reduced with massage therapy intervention". Journal of Pediatric Psychology. 24: 183–189.
- Anbar RD, Murthy VV (Sep 2010). "Reestablishment of hope as an intervention for a patient with cystic fibrosis awaiting lung transplantation". J Altern Complement Med. 16 (9): 1007–10. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0107.
- Field T.; Seligman S.; Scafidi F.; Schanberg S. (1996). "Alleviating posttraumatic stress in children following Hurricane Andrew". Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 17: 37–50. doi:10.1016/s0193-3973(96)90004-0.
- April KT, Walji R (Feb 2011). "The state of research on complementary and alternative medicine in pediatric rheumatology". Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 37 (1): 85–94. doi:10.1016/j.rdc.2010.11.011.
- Beider S, Mahrer NE, Gold JI. "Pediatric massage therapy: an overview for clinicians" Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6):1025-41; xii-xiii. Review.