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Massage Therapy for Children


Eczema is a painful and upsetting skin condition for anyone but when it comes to children, the effects can be even more traumatic and troublesome.


Atopic eczema affects approximately one in five children under the age of 11 years and the dry, red skin rash leaves children uncomfortable and often scratching. It can be a source of embarrassment and insecurity, particularly for a child who feels ‘different’ from other children.


An effective emollient routine is essential to treat the condition but is there anymore that can be done to make it easier on the child?


Recent research may have found the answer in a new massage technique designed to work in conjunction with a regular emollient routine.


A study conducted in the United States shows that children who were massaged daily for twenty minutes with a topical emollient, over a one-month period, showed reduced symptoms compared to those who received standard topical care.


Dermatologists agree that patients with eczema itch, particularly in response to stress. It is believed that massage therapy as a treatment for eczema helps decrease stress leading to reduced itching and scratching.


The therapy is also beneficial to the parents and carers as they feel a sense of active participation in the treatment process.


The findings:


All signs of eczema, including redness and scaling had improved significantly in the massaged children


The children’s behaviour was less anxious and their activity levels improved


Parents reported that their own anxiety levels and the anxiety in their children decreased and their feelings about their children improved.


The massage:


The two-phase massage lasts twenty minutes and should be performed once each day. Avoid any severely affected or sensitive areas of the body.


Phase One – application of emollient. Lie your child down and apply emollient with smooth stroking movements.


Phase Two – massage five key regions of the child’s body in the following sequence:


Face: Stroke along both side of the face. Using flats of fingers, stroke across the forehead. Use circular strokes over the temples and the hinge of the jaw. Massage the nose, cheeks, jaw and chin with the flats of fingers


Chest: Stroke both sides of the chest with the flats of the fingers, going from midline outwards. Work in cross strokes on the sides of the chest going over the shoulders.


Stomach: Use a hand over hand technique (in a paddlewheel fashion) over the stomach. Avoid the tips of the rib cage. Work in a clockwise circular motion using fingers starting just above the waist.


Legs: Starting at the hip, work down to the foot, with gentle strokes upwards towards the heart. Apply gentle squeezes and in a twisting motion across the leg from hip to foot. Concentrate on the feet and toes, stretching the Achilles tendon by pushing the ball of the foot towards the leg.


Arms: Using the same technique as the legs, stroke from the shoulder to the hand.


According to Sue Steward, skincare consultant, massage therapy is the perfect supplementary treatment for eczema: “Massage therapy can easily become part of the regular emollient routine. It is important that parents know how to perform the massage while applying emollients and creams” says Steward.