Touch Therapy: An Approach for Pediatric Constipation

July 26, 2023

Constipation in children can be a distressing issue both for the child and the parents. It’s not uncommon for pediatricians to recommend various dietary changes and, in some cases, medication to help alleviate the problem. However, another approach that has been gaining recognition for its effectiveness is touch therapy, or more specifically, pediatric massage. 

Pediatric massage is a gentle, non-invasive therapy that involves the manipulation of a child’s muscles and tissues to promote health and well-being. It has been used to address a variety of childhood ailments, one of which is constipation. Touch therapy can play a pivotal role in managing pediatric constipation and can be used by both certified pediatric massage therapists and parents at home.

The Science Behind Touch Therapy and Constipation

The digestive system is a complex network of organs working together to break down food, absorb nutrients, and expel waste. When this system gets disrupted, constipation can occur. Pediatric massage helps to stimulate the digestive system, encouraging natural movement and alleviating discomforts.

Research has shown that massage can increase the speed at which food moves through the digestive tract, known as gut motility. This increase in motility can help alleviate the symptoms of constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Moreover, massage can also help alleviate the anxiety and stress that can sometimes accompany chronic constipation, which can further enhance its effectiveness.

Three Steps to Get Started with Pediatric Massage

Before starting a massage session:

  • Make sure the child is comfortable and relaxed.
  • Choose a quiet, warm room and use a soft blanket or mat for your child to lie on.
  • Always use gentle pressure and take the child’s cues on what feels good and what doesn’t.

Here are three crucial steps to get started effectively:

1. Ask for Permission:

This is an essential first step in any touch therapy session. It teaches children about body autonomy and consent. Before starting the massage, explain what you will be doing and why. You want them to understand that they are in control of their body and have the right to say ‘no’ at any point.

2. Nurturing Touch on the Abdomen:

Start by gently placing your hand on the child’s abdomen. Always be mindful that your hand may be large compared to the child’s body, so you must be very cautious of providing touch in the portion of the abdomen that is very clearly not too near any private zones. This initial touch should be calming and reassuring and may be applied over clothing. It’s not about using any specific technique yet, but more about connecting and helping the child relax. 

3. The Sun Technique:

This technique is often used in pediatric massage to stimulate the digestive system. Visualize the child’s belly button as the center of the sun. Gradually, you can move your hand gently, clockwise, following the natural path of the digestive tract. This technique can be very beneficial in moving gas and stool through the intestines, relieving constipation.

Pediatric massage offers a natural, non-invasive approach to managing constipation in children. It’s a therapy that therapists and parents can easily learn to apply at home, providing relief for the child and a sense of family empowerment.

If you are a parent and your child suffers from chronic constipation, consider consulting a certified pediatric massage therapist who can provide further guidance and support.

Remember, touch therapy should be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, advice from a medical professional. Always consult your pediatrician if your child is experiencing persistent constipation.