Massage for Children and Young Athletes

Nov 28, 2016

Although massage therapy has been proven as a remedy for stress and anxiety, sore muscles, stiff joints and chronic pain, parents often overlook this treatment for their child or young athlete. Perhaps parents may believe massage therapy is a bit indulgent for a child, but with the increased levels of stress and anxiety we are seeing in our young students and the increased numbers of extra curricular activities and sports they are involved in, regular massage therapy is a great addition to their schedule.

Massage therapy can pay off with big health benefits for young athletes and in general for children just as it does for adults!  Body awareness, stress management and time to decompress helps children just as it does adults.

If done by a Registered Massage Therapist, regular massages can improve your child’s fitness, athletic performance and self-esteem while helping them to de-stress and practice healthy self-care.  Here are seven great reasons to give it a try:

1. Improve body image

According to a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute, women who struggle with either anorexia nervosa or bulimia benefited from regular massages. The study showed that regular massage decreased anxiety levels, while increasing levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Massages also reduced depression. Participants in the study also showed better body awareness. Both girls and boys with better body awareness are less likely to suffer from eating disorders and body image issues,  a growing concern among parents of youth athletes.

2. Soothe sore muscles

Like older athletes, youngsters who participate in sports sustain sore muscles, and sometimes injury due to overuse. Massage therapy can aid in pre-competition warmup or reduce post-game recovery time. A light massage can also reduce stiffness and prevent soft-tissue type injuries such as sprain or strain. Beyond sports, everyday wear and tear such as poor student posture and carrying heavy backpacks creates tension and postural issues that can be addressed through massage therapy.

3. Increase range of motion

Massage therapists often incorporate mild stretching and passive/active range of motion into treatments. This helps increase range of motion and flexibility. By manipulating trigger points, massage therapists can zero in on movement issues related to specific sports, such as tennis elbow or baseball-related rotator cuff injuries.  Increasing flexibility and range of motion helps in all kinds of sports and allows the body to move and respond at its best!

4. Decrease muscle tension

The primary reason people seek massage therapy is to relax. This works for children too. Massage therapy can sooth tight muscles and improve a child’s overall mood. Children, who participate in high-impact and high-stress sports such as gymnastics or figure skating and hockey can benefit from leg and foot massage to relieve tension.  Relaxation and time to “de-stress” is necessary for children too!

5. Reduce chronic pain

Regular massages can reduce chronic ailments such as back pain and cramping and help with the effects of these like reducing tension head aches and improve posture.  Massage can increase blood flow and improve circulation, which also aids in alleviating dull pain around joints. Aches associated with repetitive movement can also be addressed in massage therapy.

6. Improve sleep

Reduced stress, decreased muscle tension and pain relief lead to improved sleep. The Sleep Review magazine reports that massage has been shown to improve sleep in infants, children and adults.  The average child needs between 9-11 hours of sleep/night and with so many activities, any opportunity to help children relax and learn how to calm and rest their minds can help with sleep.

7. Enhance athletic performance

Regular massage improves overall wellness. A child who is less stressed, pain-free, relaxed, loose and sleeping well, will be a better athlete.  A child with better body awareness and comfort with their body will be a better athlete.  A child who feels well generally, will be a better, healthier and more active participant in their activities.

We fully believe that health and wellness requires a mind/body focus and that the mental and physical health and wellbeing of our children can be addressed together.  Massage Therapy is a great tool to help with all aspects of healthy living and help our children and young athletes be the best they can be:)