Massage therapy can be really beneficial for children with disabilities.

Massage Therapy for Children with Disabilities


Massage Therapy can be used as a specialized tangible method for helping children who are living with any type of disability. Massage has been found to be a treatment for many to help with stress. Many people have yet to discover the multiple benefits of massage for children living with chronic pain, discomfort, constipation, rigid muscles, nerve stress and any condition that manifests from medical conditions.

Mother massaging baby

I have been a massage therapist for children living with multiple diagnosed disabilities for the past 10 years. In this time, I have been able to set goals and objectives to treat many underlying symptoms associated with chronic pain. I have a child who is diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Chronic Fatigue, Lupus, Anxiety, and Ulcerative Colitis who receives massage daily as a method of decreasing the amount of pain associated with his conditions.

Let me share some benefits of Massage as a solution to help your child or yourself. Abdominal massage is extremely beneficial to lessening the amount of chronic constipation, trapped gases, and bloating associated with stagnant bowels. Massage has proven to be an effective method in reducing the amount of taut, stiff, and tense muscles, by lubricating and creating more fluidity in the body. Massage used in conjunction with range of motion techniques has shown to provide a greater opportunity to increase mobility in children who have contractures and scar tissue from surgeries. The most important benefit of massage is reducing the amount of nerve stress by engaging the nervous and endocrine systems that are in charge of producing important chemicals that improve and maintain homeostasis.

I have the pleasure of being able to provide massage as an effective adjunctive treatment for children living with complex conditions. Massage therapy has continued to coexist with traditional medicine, and is bringing new ideas into the mainstream for many types of conditions.

Please note that there are very few massage therapists who specialize in massage therapy for children with complex medical conditions. Should you have any questions or need directives as to proper application to help your child, I have been a Licensed Massage Instructor for many years, and love helping anyone’s children.

Author: Melecia Garcia • Date: 6/21/2016

About the Author

Melecia Garcia has been a massage therapist for over 16 years. She has been a licensed massage therapist and instructor for 10 years. She specifically works with children by applying and forming solutions for chronic pain and discomfort associated with chronic pain. She is on the cusp of launching a new plant-based, organic, paraben-free, gluten-free, and toxin-free muscle recovery gel that she applies to her son and all her patients. It is named after her son Jack. For more information on how to approach applying massage techniques, contact her at

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Massage Therapy for Children with Disabilities

Massage Therapy and Mental Health… the proof is here, in the research results

Research Roundup: Massage for Mental Health & Wellness

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Massage therapy is commonly used for relaxation and pain relief, in addition to a variety of health conditions such as osteoarthritis1, fibromyalgia2, and inflammation after exercise.3 Massage therapy can also be an effective therapy for aspects of mental health. Recent research suggests that symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression may be positively affected with massage therapy.

Below are some recent research findings which highlight the role of massage therapy in mental health and wellness, compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association.

Massage Therapy for Depression in Individuals With HIV

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine4 indicates that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV disease. The study lasted eight weeks, and results show massage significantly reduced the severity of depression beginning at week four and continuing at weeks six and eight. American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager says of the study, “This research suggests that regular therapeutic massage could be a useful tool in the integrated treatment of depression for patients with HIV.”  Read more »

Massage Therapy to Reduce Anxiety in Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy

Research published in Applied Nursing Research5 shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue. “This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy within the full cancer treatment spectrum, particularly during the often mentally and physically exhausting chemotherapy process,” says American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager. Read more »

Massage Therapy for Reduced Anxiety and Depression in Military Veterans

Research published in Military Medicine6 reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan. Read more »

Massage Therapy for Nurses to Reduce Work-Related Stress

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice  shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. “This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” says Bontrager. Read more »

1. Perlman A, Ali A, Njike VY, et al. Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS One. 2012; 7(2):e30248.
2. Castro-Sánchez, A.M., Matarán-Peñarrocha, G.A., Granero-Molina, J., Aguilera-Manrique, G., Quesada-Rubio, J.M., Moreno-Lorenzo, C. (2011). Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011:561753.
3. J. D. Crane, D. I. Ogborn, C. Cupido, S. Melov, A. Hubbard, J. M. Bourgeois, M. A. Tarnopolsky, Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 119ra13 (2012).
4. Polane RE, Gertsik L, Favreau JT, et al. Open-label, randomized, parallel-group controlled clinical trial of massage for treatment of depression in HIV-infected subjects. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.2013 Apr;19(4):334-40. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0058.
5. Karagozoglu S, Kahve E. Effects of back massage on chemotherapy-related fatigue and anxiety: Supportive care and therapeutic touch in cancer nursing. Applied Nursing Research. 2013 Sep;19. pii: S0897-1897(13)00070-0. doi: 10.1016/j.apnr.2013.07.002.
6. Collinge W, Kahn J, Soltysik R. Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: a pilot study. Military Medicine. 2012 Dec;177(12):1477-85.
7. Engen DJ, Wahner-Roedler DL, Vincent A, et al. Feasibility and effect of chair massage offered to nurses during work hours on stress-related symptoms: a pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2012 Nov;18(4):212-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.06.002.

Evidence that Massage Therapy can be beneficial for kids on the Austism Spectrum

Written by Susan Moffitt, March 15, 2011.

Answers to three common questions about pediatric massage by Shelley Schroeder RMT, CPMT

When introduced to the idea of massage therapy for children, people generally ask the same 3 questions: What does it look like? How much does it cost? What is the purpose?

Adults understand why other adults would need massage therapy. It feels good, can help reduce stress, assist in the return to normal function after an injury, but how does that translate to kids? Many adults believe kids don’t have any stress, and that the implementation of regular massage for children is unnecessary. I don’t agree. I remember what it was like to be a child. I was the oldest sibling, so I had to set a good example (stressful). I was a bit on the chubby side, so I was constantly being told I needed to watch my weight (stressful). We moved several times, so for years I felt like I was perpetually the new kid in school, yep, that was stressful too. There’s also the social pressures that we faced as students that we may long have forgotten, but, unfortunately the children of today are still living it, and to a much greater extent than we ever did thanks to the digital age. Stress can manifest in many different ways including sore neck and shoulder muscles, headaches, grinding of the teeth, and constipation.

Massage therapy has been proven to help relieve constipation (1), a very common occurrence in children (2). The abdomen can be a very sensitive area, especially for a child who regularly experiences constipation, so it is important to approach the treatment with sensitivity and respect to the child’s boundaries. Usually the therapist will place their hands over the childs, so that it is the child’s own hands that are touching them, or demonstrate on a doll, and have the parent perform the massage. This can be done over clothing without compromising the effectiveness of the treatment. The child is comfortably positioned in a half sitting position propped up by pillows, usually on a mat on the floor.

Like treatment for adults, treatments for children will be modified according to the needs of the child as well as the restrictions of the environment in which the session is taking place. The session described above would most likely be taking place with an otherwise healthy child in a private practice setting. A session with a child in a hospital bed with an IV, port, or other medical equipment would look quite different.

The treatment for a child with a critical illness, who is bound to a hospital bed, is more likely to be about comfort and pain management. Our bodies have different reactions to different stimuli. Pain generally causes a ‘fight or flight’ reaction associated with the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Pleasurable sensations, like foods we enjoy the taste of or comforting touch from a loved one generally lull the body into a ‘rest and restore’ mode associated with the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). In this situation, the simplest way to have the PNS have a pain minimizing effect on the body is to have a parent or someone the child feels close to instructed by an RMT on how to massage the hands and feet and possibly scalp of the child.(3,4) These areas are easily accessible, and require minimal repositioning of the child.

Getting a parent involved in the treatment allows the parent to feel like they are part of the treatment of their child, not just a helpless observer. It also allows the parent to have the capability of performing the treatment as it is needed. The parent will feel comfortable providing the massage for their child and doesn’t need to depend on the massage therapist to do all of the massage, only needing to follow up with the therapist at regular intervals to ensure that proper techniques are being used. This saves the family the time and money of having to spend extra time with the RMT.

This brings us to the ever popular question of cost. Massage therapy, in the province of Ontario, is a regulated health profession and is covered to some extent by most extended health care insuranceplans. If a spouse is covered by the plan, then the children are usually covered as well. Check with your own insurance company to be certain. The pricing of massage therapy differs depending on geography (generally rates are higher in urban areas, than rural areas), the qualifications of the therapist (seasoned therapists with years of experience and additional training in specialties can charge more than a freshly graduated RMT), and the local massage therapy association (the RMTAO here in Ontario). The RMTAO posts suggested rates on their website that provide a guideline on what RMTs should be charging.

This is my chosen profession, and while I am monetarily compensated for my time, the money is not my motivation. Assisting in the relief of pain in children, helping parents (whether natural or adopted) to bond with their child, helping to create successful bedtime routines and seeing the smiles that result from these is why I love this profession, and want everyone to know just how much kids really can benefit from massage therapy.

In closing, kids need it just as much as us adults do, and if we massage them there’s a good chance they will massage us!


1. Lämås K, Lindholm L, Stenlund H, Engström B, Jacobsson C. Effects of abdominal massage in management of constipation—A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2009 Jun 30;46(6):759-67.

2 . Issenman R M, Hewson S, Pirhonen D, Taylor W, Tirosh A. Are chronic digestive complaints the result of abnormal dietary patterns? Am J Dis Child. 1987;141:679–682. [PubMed]

3.Fazeli MS, Pourrahmat MM, Liu M, Guan L, Collet JP. The Effect of Head Massage on the Regulation of the Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System: A Pilot Randomized Crossover Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2016 Jan 1;22(1):75-80.

4.Guan L, Collet JP, Yuskiv N, Skippen P, Brant R, Kissoon N. The effect of massage therapy on autonomic activity in critically ill children. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014 Dec 21;2014.