ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), this learning disorder is the most common psychiatric diagnostic label given to children.
Anywhere from 3-7 percent of all school-age children and adolescents may have it, or approximately 2 million children in the United States. It is one of the primary causes of behavioral problems in general pediatric settings. Nine boys are diagnosed with ADHD for every girl, but the rate of diagnosis for girls has been rising as well, and girls who are diagnosed have the same level of impairment as boys.
The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms begin over the course of many months, often with impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more. 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. Because the symptoms of ADHD vary so much, ADHD must be diagnosed by a professional. Primarily consisting of stimulants, pharmaceutical intervention is the first choice in treating ADHD. In an effort to control affected individuals, an increasing number of school age children are regularly medicated. Massage Therapy for ADHD can help calm the mind and ease the effects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Bodywork is perfectly suited for reducing the symptoms of ADHD.
Massage therapy for ADHD has a calming effect that is great for people with this disorder. People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have an imbalance with their parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the flight or fight response and the parasympathetic nervous system are responsible for relaxation. Massage triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s what makes massage so relaxing.
Gentle, relaxing massages are calming and best for children with this disorder. Swedish massage and CranioSacral therapy would be appropriate.
Two recent studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami reported that regular massage therapy for ADHD can be an effective treatment for kids. 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 percent 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.
A study which appeared in the spring 1998 issue of the journal Adolescence (pages 103-108) provides tantalizing evidence of a very surprising evidence. The study was authored by Dr. Tiffany Field who is a very well known researcher in child mental health, and who has published a number of studies on the beneficial effects of massage for infants. In this study, 28 adolescents with ADHD were randomly selected to receive either massage therapy for ADHD or relaxation therapy (i.e. relaxation therapy is a technique in which clients are taught specific skills to enable them to become more calm and relaxed and is often used in treating anxiety disorders) for 10 consecutive school days.
At the end of the treatment, students who received massage, but not those who had received the relaxation treatment, rated themselves as feeling happier and observers rated them as being less fidgety and active following the sessions. Even more impressive is the fact that teachers rated these students as spending more time on task and showing less hyperactive behavior in the classroom (teachers did not know which students had received which treatment).
Incorporating professional massage into your child’s routine may help him to develop an age-appropriate ability to focus, a calmer disposition, and even increased confidence. Studies report that two 20-minute massages a week are enough to show significant improvement in ADHD children. Because these kids have trouble staying still for prolonged periods, they better tolerate shorter, more frequent massages.
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. Children have a hard time staying still so it’s best to schedule shorter massages, 20 to 30 minutes. Between professional sessions you can massage your child yourself. Massaging your child for a few minutes everyday or even just a few times a week will help improve his/her behavior
Khilnani S, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Schanberg S., Massage therapy for ADHD improves mood and behavior of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Adolescence, 2003 Winter; 38(152):623-38.
Osborn, Karri, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Soma Brings Peace of Mind to Families, Massage and Bodywork, June/July 2004.
Soma Brings Peace of Mind to Families
Osborn, Karri, Sea of Calm: Water Therapy Touches Young Spirits, Massage and Bodywork, Feb/March 2003.
http://www.nimh.nih.gov, Attention Deficit Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health, 2/17/06.
http://www.realbodywork.com, The Nervous System, Sean Riehl, 2003.
http://www.drjaygordon.com, Attention Deficit Disorder, Gordon, MD, J., 2005.