To complement “Expert Advice: How is a pediatric massage practice different from a regular massage practice?” in the August 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: Pediatric massage is one specialty in which the importance of quality training and education cannot be overemphasized—because adjusting massage for the needs of children means much more than just using lighter pressure and getting parental consent.
Massage therapists graduate from their core educational programs with a variety of experience, from understanding the difference between effleurage and petrissage; to performing an intake for an adult client; to the origins, insertions and functions of muscles and soft tissues. However, one thing that is rarely, if ever, discussed is how to adapt massage therapy to the specific needs of a pediatric client.
Many massage schools answer their students’ questions about pediatric massage very simply with, “Ask their parents,” and “Just use less pressure.” This may sound like good advice, but is it all massage therapists need to consider when working with children? In short, the answer is no.
Special considerations for kids
Pediatric massage therapists have completed comprehensive training in massage therapy as well as specialized training that addresses developmental considerations, contraindications and precautions specific to working with children.
Children are very different from adult clients, and have specific, unique physical, emotional and developmental needs. Pediatric massage is designed to meet these individual considerations. It is easy to see that children grow rapidly, and special care should be taken to protect their skin, soft tissues and bones. Sessions should include adjustment in the pace, pressure and client positioning necessary to provide safe and effective treatment for a child. A properly educated pediatric massage therapist should also be able to ask permission appropriately of the pediatric massage client, parents or guardians, and the health care team as necessary.
Children’s health conditions
When working with children, you may also need to take many specific health-care-related considerations. The population of young people you wish to provide therapeutic care to may be considered healthy, well and typically developing; have a variety of specific health care needs; or be hospitalized or in hospice care. Due to this broad range of possible conditions, additional education in pediatric massage is paramount in setting a professional foundation from which to practice with this population.
With appropriate background, a certified pediatric massage therapist can be a huge asset to children and their families, especially within the confines of the medical system. Numerous pediatric massage therapists work in collaboration with pediatric hospitals and medical institutions by performing inpatient and outpatient care. Hospital-based massage for pediatrics is defined as a program that offers massage, touch therapy, caring and compassionate or nurturing touch, bodywork or classes in these techniques to outpatients, inpatients, hospital staff, and patients’ family or caregivers.
Choosing a course
As in all massage therapy specialties, advanced training matters—and you should choose your educational pathway wisely. I recommend you do research to ensure you choose the best direction to give you professional certification and education that will help you add pediatric massage to your practice. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to contact instructors and ask questions before you enroll.
Here are some factors to consider when making your decision about a pediatric massage therapy continuing education program.
- First, consider the presenter. What is her background? How much experience does she have? How long has she been practicing and teaching this modality or specialty? Is she published in respected industry magazines and journals? Does she use current literature and research as part of the presented curriculum and course materials?
- You may also want to ask colleagues and others already in the pediatric massage field about their background and course of educational training. How did they get into the field? What route did they take to achieve their goals? How and why did they decide to specialize in this area, or add pediatric massage to their practice?
Choosing to specialize and become trained in pediatric massage therapy can be a very rewarding career path. You can truly change a child’s life through the power of touch.
Tina Allen, L.M.T., C.P.M.M.T., C.P.M.T., C.I.M.T, is the founder and director of the Liddle Kidz Foundation and an authority on infant and pediatric massage therapy. She wrote the Expert Advice article “How is a pediatric massage practice different from a regular massage practice?” for MASSAGE Magazine’s August 2015 print issue.
Neither the author/s nor MASSAGE Magazine assume responsibility for the application of any technique. Readers must ensure they have completed the training necessary to safely and effectively perform any technique mentioned on massagemag.com.