massaging infantsMassage therapists often have a variety of tools, which allows them to offer treatments for a variety issues. When it comes to addressing chest colds and congestion, massage plus cupping might be a way to help.

For infants who present with these symptoms, this combination therapy could bring relief not only to baby, but also to his concerned mom.

According to the Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM) in Portland, Oregon, cupping dates back to 340 A.D., when animal horns served as the original tool. Some cups were also made of bamboo, pottery, nuts, shells, brass or iron. Regardless of material, cups were used to address pulmonary and other issues.

Fast-forward and cups today are made of glass, rubber, synthetics and other substances, but their purpose is still to alleviate respiratory difficulties and several other conditions, as well.

Rather than compressing tissue, cupping exacts negative pressure that breaks up and drains stagnation, increases blood and lymph flow, helping to alleviate a variety of conditions, according to the International Cupping Therapy Association (ICTA). This technique may enhance the benefits of other alternative therapies, including massage.

Karen Stoner, owner of A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, specializes in prenatal, infant and fertility massage and indicates that cupping, followed by massage, can help reduce cold symptoms and congestion in infants.

“For the chest, the biggest thing is to loosen up phlegm so that it doesn’t just sit and make (the baby) keep coughing or become infected,” she said. “I encourage using a technique known as ‘cupping,’ which can be done either with a fancy cupping set that looks like little glass jars, but your hands, a shot glass, or even the cap from a baby’s bottle can work just as well.”

There are several different kinds of cupping for adults that involve various levels of suction, heat and length of therapy. Cupping for infants is much simpler. According to Stoner, the therapist places the cup against the baby’s chest or back, and pulls it away quickly, repeating this process over and over.

“This technique creates a small amount of suction, which helps pull fluid from the deeper parts of the lungs and bring it more to the surface, thereby allowing it to be coughed out more easily,” she said. “I follow it up with my regular chest routine, which consists of long gentle strokes and small circular movements over the chest area and between the ribs to encourage good fluids to move and help the rib cage stay loose, so the lungs can work and move more efficiently.”

Stoner emphasized that massage should never be a substitute for medical care from a pediatrician or other trained clinician. Massage therapists who use cupping in their practices should be properly trained and credentialed to perform this technique.

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