by Jean Chamberlain, LMT
Massage for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Massage is perfectly suited for reducing the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a condition typically appearing in young children, although teenagers and adults may also be affected. Someone with ADHD has difficulty controlling their behavior and/or paying attention. It is estimated that between 3-5% of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States.
The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Oftentimes, a child who “can’t sit still” or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered a “discipline problem,” while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as unmotivated. Each of these children may have different types of ADHD.
All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking and sometimes daydream. When the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home, ADHD may be suspected.
Imagine lying on a massage table. As your massage therapist sets to work, you feel your body relax. Your muscles soften, your nervous system calms. Now, imagine how you feel when the massage is over: relaxed, alert, calm, and content.
Massage therapists have the ability to introduce calm and peace to a client, regardless of their environment. Anyone who has gotten a massage understands the many benefits that it offers. Massage is usually reserved for adults (sometimes infants) but what about massage for kids and adolescents? If massage helps calm the body and improve alertness, how might it help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Adults can also experience symptoms of ADHD and massage can help them, too.
Two recent studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami reported that regular massage therapy can be an effective treatment for ADHD. One study found adolescent boys who received ten 15-minute daily massages were observed by their teachers to be more focused in their schoolwork, and they fidgeted less. In addition, the children rated themselves as happier than those who participated in a relaxation therapy program.
Another study involved kids aged 7-18, 20% of whom were girls. Each subject received a 20-minute massage twice a week. They showed immediate improvement in their moods and longer-term behavioral improvement in the classroom. They also reported feeling happier and their teachers found them to be more attentive.
In adult studies, massage has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to mitigate the active fight-or-flight response. Massage also helps improve math computation performance and raises alertness levels, as measured on electroencephalograms (EEGs). Finally, massage decreases depression and increases mental focus.
For massage on children with ADHD, a practitioner generally uses simple, moderate-pressure strokes to the child's head/neck, arms, torso, legs, and back. Dividing time between these areas--say four minutes each--will address the full body and is enough to get the desired effect. Most kids do fine fully clothed.
A comfortable bed, chair, or table in a quiet room is best. For parents seeking skilled bodywork for their kids, chair massage is a great choice, done with the child fully clothed and for about 20-30 minutes at a time.
In addition, supplementing with home massages between professional sessions can also be useful. Talk to your massage therapist about private massage lessons for you. She can teach you simple, effective techniques to use on your child when frequent visits to the massage therapist may not be practical