A recent review of research on massage therapy for young people with ADHD found improvements in ADHD symptoms following massage.
However, the review also unearthed flaws in the quality of these studies.
The review, “Massage therapy for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” focused on 11 studies with a total of nearly 800 subjects with ADHD. The subjects ranged in age from 3 to 18.
Eight of the 11 reviewed studies were randomized controlled trials, and the other three were case-series clinical trials. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) massage was used in all three case-series clinical trials. Two of the case-series clinical trials used a standard protocol for the TCM massage. The third used TCM massage techniques tailored to each subject.
Four of the eight randomized controlled trials compared TCM massage to methylphenidate for the treatment of ADHD. Methylphenidate is an ADHD medication sold under brand names such as Ritalin and Concerta, among others. Three of these randomized controlled trials used TCM massage techniques tailored to each subject. The fourth used a standard protocol for the TCM massage.
Two of the other four randomized controlled trials compared a standard protocol of Western massage to a wait-list control group and relaxation therapy. The third compared individualized Western massage to exercise therapy and a wait-list control group. The fourth compared a standard protocol of TCM massage combined with sensory integration training to sensory integration training alone.
The main outcome measure in the reviewed studies was the severity of ADHD symptoms. Results of the research showed TCM massage was more effective than methylphenidate for the improvement of ADHD symptoms and Western massage was more effective than exercise therapy, relaxation therapy and no intervention for the improvement of ADHD symptoms.
In addition, TCM massage combined with sensory integration training was more effective than sensory integration training alone for the improvement of ADHD symptoms.
However, due to the poor methodological quality of the studies, the authors of the review cautioned against interpreting these results as solid evidence of the efficacy of massage therapy for the improvement of ADHD.
“Limitations included unclear randomization and allocation concealment methods, incomplete reporting of outcome data, a lack of monitoring of adverse events and validated outcome measures, as well as a high risk of biases related to a failure to blind participants and outcome assessors,” state the authors of the review.
“Further trials using high-quality methodologies should be conducted to confirm the efficacy of massage on ADHD in children and adolescents. Furthermore, the results should be reported according to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT).”
Authors: She-Cheng Chen, Branda Yee-Man Yu, Lorna Kwai-Ping Suen, Juan Yu, Fiona Yan-Yee Ho, Jun-Jun Yang and Wing-Fai Yeung.
Sources: School of Nursing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China; Pediatric Tuina Health Care Clinic, Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Affiliated Hospital, China; Department of Psychology, Chinese University of Hong Kong, China; and School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, China. Originally published in the February issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 42, 389-399.