Pain, an all-too-common symptom in many pediatric diagnoses, can profoundly affect a child’s quality of life, ability to engage in daily activities, and overall well-being. Traditional medical treatments are often the first line of defense against pain. However, integrative therapies like massage are gaining attention for their potential benefits.
This article delves into the role of massage for children with pain, spotlighting five pediatric diagnoses where pain is a significant symptom and the evidence supporting massage as a pain management tool.
Five Pediatric Diagnoses with Pain as a Predominant Symptom
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA): JRA is a type of arthritis that affects children, causing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Studies have shown that massage can reduce pain levels and improve mobility in patients with arthritis, potentially benefiting children with JRA.
Sickle Cell Disease: This inherited condition causes red blood cells to become misshapen, leading to pain episodes. Preliminary research suggests that massage can reduce the intensity and frequency of pain episodes in children with this disease.
Cancer: Pain is a frequent symptom for pediatric cancer patients, whether from the disease itself or its treatment. Research has found that massage can help reduce pain, anxiety, and fatigue in children undergoing cancer treatments.
Postoperative Pain: After surgeries, children can experience acute pain. Several studies indicate that massage can reduce postoperative pain levels, decrease the need for pain medications, and shorten hospital stays.
Migraines and Chronic Headaches: While migraines and chronic headaches can have various causes, their impact is universally debilitating. Massage has decreased the frequency and severity of migraines in some pediatric patients.
Pediatric Massage: Addressing Pain Beyond the Site
While the intuitive approach might be to massage the area where the child reports pain, the body’s interconnectedness means that relief can often be found by focusing on other areas as well:
Referral Points: Pain can sometimes originate from a different location than where it’s felt, known as referred pain. By addressing these referral points, Certified Pediatric Massage Therapists can often alleviate pain in the symptomatic area.
Relaxation and Parasympathetic Activation: Stress and tension can exacerbate pain. General relaxation massage can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing overall tension and potentially decreasing pain.
Boosting Endorphins: Massage can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. While this might not directly address the site of pain, the overall pain levels can decrease.
Massage therapy offers a promising complementary approach for managing pain in children with various diagnoses. Beyond direct manipulation of the painful area, massage therapists can employ a holistic approach, recognizing the body’s intricate network and the myriad ways pain can be influenced.
For parents considering massage for their children, consulting with healthcare professionals and ensuring the massage therapist is trained and certified in pediatric massage therapy is essential.