By: Nina Chesno
Occupational Massage Therapy for children is a unique form of Occupational Therapy that many parents may not be aware of. This process involves using the natural power of touch and integrating that into occupational therapy practice.
Massage therapy is an area of treatment within occupational therapy in which the occupational therapist moves away from traditional preventative or rehabilitative therapy to a holistic healing approach. At The Therapy Place, our therapists provide soft-tissue occupational therapy massage for children, which helps to release tense muscles thereby relieving pain.
Massage therapy can also be beneficial for babies and adults, but the focus of this article is on children. A pediatric massage therapist will provide occupational therapy massage therapy primarily to infants, babies, and children. Various oils and lotions are available to massage a baby’s sensitive skin.
This usually involves a speech therapist working on the team with the occupational therapist. They will observe the mother when feeding their child. They will encourage the parent to maintain good eye contact, which is essential for establishing reciprocal communication.
Power of Touch
Holding your baby is the most natural experience they have as newborns. As a parent, you will become aware of your child’s responses to touch, which will enable you to interpret their needs well before they can speak.
It is this nonverbal contact that is the beginning of communication and bonding between you and your baby, which is why it is so important developmentally. If a child doesn’t have the early bonds of nonverbal communication, it will be much harder for them to communicate verbally later in life.
Every single contact that you have with your baby, child, or teenager demonstrates that you love them and affirms their trust in you. This is why your child or family member feels so much better after a “deep hug”!
Who Needs Occupational Massage Therapy?
Babies and children who have been hospitalized or diagnosed with cerebral palsy or a developmental delay would benefit greatly from occupational massage therapy. But in general, all babies can benefit from massage therapy, even without a diagnosis.
In occupational therapy, the therapist will give parents opportunities to practice massage techniques on their infant or child so that they can easily implement these at home. The use of massage at home will enhance your relationship with your baby and child.
It can be very exciting to watch your baby’s reactions to massage as they grow and develop.
Goals & Benefits Of Massage Therapy
Occupational massage therapy has multiple goals and benefits:
To help your baby or child relax using a gentle massage, which will aid in them falling asleep.
To help with the baby’s digestion by massaging the tummy in a round and downward motion. This could get rid of gas, which causes colic.
To release stressed muscles caused by tension. This applies to the older child who experiences exam stress.
Headaches, Anxiety, Insomnia, or Depression:
Older children who suffer from headaches or depression.
Children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder say that they feel happier after the deep tissue massage therapy. Teachers of children with ADHD also reported that the children became less fidgety and were able to sit for extended periods following massage therapy.
Overall Health and Wellness:
To improve the wellness and health of the child.
Soft Tissue Tension:
To relieve tension in the soft body tissues of the hands, arms, and legs.
To prevent muscles from developing contractures in children with Cerebral Palsy.
Pain and Inflammation:
Children also benefit from massage to reduce pain and inflammation following an injury.
Deep Massage Therapy
There is another form of Occupational Massage Therapy, called deep massage therapy or deep pressure, which helps the child to cope when they feel distressed or overstimulated. This can be very helpful for children with intense sensory issues. The Occupational Therapist will use deep massage therapy to calm the child with Sensory-motor integration difficulties.
A common method of this involves providing the child with a weighted blanket often reduces the stress caused by their inability to apply self-control to their tactile sensory feelings. Deep pressure massage or the use of weighted blankets can be very calming and has a positive improvement in the child’s behavior as they do not experience sensory overload.
The Occupational therapist plays a vital role in so many areas of a baby and child’s life. Occupational Massage Therapy benefits babies and children in many ways, including sports injuries, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, tension, and headaches.
Most importantly, occupational massage therapy helps parents learn how to connect with their children in different ways. With this stronger connection, parents are able to help their children navigate the world.
The Therapy Place looks forward to helping children with special needs and their parents every day. We strive to improve functionality and communication with every child and help their parents learn to navigate the world of special needs. If you’re interested in learning more about massage therapy, or want to know more about how The Therapy Place can help your child, give us a call today.
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