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What is massage?

Massage is a therapy that is believed to promote healing and relaxation. It is performed by gently rubbing the muscles and connective tissues. The massage may focus on certain body areas or the entire body, based on the needs of your child. Different types of massage can be used for infants, children, and adolescents to meet their developmental needs.

How does massage work?  

  • Increases circulation
  • Relaxes muscle tissue and nerves
  • Reduces pain, stress, tension, and anxiety   

What conditions may benefit from massage?

Research has shown that massage can:

  • Decrease muscle tightness and soreness
  • Improve constipation and gas  
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Promote relaxation
  • Promote weight gain in infants
  • Improve circulation
  • Enhance immune function
  • Improve gross motor development
  • Encourage bonding with caregiver

How is massage performed?

Massage is performed in a safe, gentle manner.

Before treatment:

  • The healthcare team will talk with you about your child’s health.  They will decide if massage might be helpful for your child.
  • We will ask you if your child has any skin sensitivities or reactions.
  • We may ask you to help us understand your child's development, communication, and cues.
  • We will address any questions or concerns you or your child may have about massage.

During treatment:

  • Your child will remain clothed. A blanket and extra pillows may be used to help keep your child comfortable and warm during the massage.
  • We will always ask your child's permission before starting a session.
  • We will decide with you and your child which areas on the body to massage.
  • We will ask your child to get into a comfortable position to access the identified areas.
  • We will follow your child's cues and communication about when to end the massage.
  • We will teach simple and safe techniques that you can use with your child to support home treatment.

Some children may find it hard to be still during the massage. This is not a problem. We are able to adapt massage through stories and songs.

Who will perform my child’s massage?

Your child’s massage will be performed by a licensed massage therapist. These individuals are certified to work with children and adolescents.

Other healthcare providers including physicians, nurses, child life specialists, occupational therapists and physical therapists may also perform simple massage techniques during treatment sessions and instruct parents on massage techniques.

How long are typical massage sessions?

Massage sessions can range anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Timing will depend on the goals of the treatment and attention span of your child.

Is massage safe?

Massage is safe when performed by licensed healthcare providers. Side effects are rare but could include some muscle soreness. The Massage Therapy Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is closely managed to ensure your child’s safety.

What are conditions that would affect getting a massage?  

 A massage treatment may be avoided or adjusted for the following conditions:

  • Broken skin
  • Skin infections
  • Swelling
  • Severe infections
  • Kidney infection
  • Fever
  • Broken bones
  • Head injuries

What can I expect after my child has had a massage?

Your child may feel:

  • Energized
  • Relaxed
  • Drowsy

Encourage your child to drink fluids after the session.

Does massage take the place of traditional medicine?

Massage does not replace medical diagnosis and treatment. Our staff can suggest ways to include massage into your child’s care plan. Please talk to your healthcare provider about whether massage should be considered for your child.

Please share your questions and concerns about pediatric massage with your child’s healthcare team.

Additional resources

November 2022