Child Massage

Child Massage


Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T. & Thimas, E. (2001). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: benefits from Tai Chi. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 5, 120-123.

Thirteen adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) participated in Tai Chi classes twice a week for 5 weeks. Teachers rated the children’s behaviour on the Conners Scale during the baseline period, after the 5 week Tai Chi session period and 2 weeks later. After the 10 Tai Chi sessions the adolescents displayed less anxiety, improved conduct, less daydreaming behaviours, less inappropriate emotions, and less hyperactivity. These improved scores persisted over the 2-week follow up (no Tai Chi period).


Field, T., Morrow, C., Valdeon, C., Larson, S., Kuhn, C., & Schanberg, S., (1992). Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 125-131.

Compared with a control group who viewed relaxing videotapes, the massaged subjects were less depressed and anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nighttime sleep increased for both groups over the study period and urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels decreased, but only for depressed patients.

Platania Solazzo, A., Field, T., Blank, J., Seligman, F., Kuhn, C., Schanberg, S., & Saab, P. (1992). Relaxation therapy reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Acta Paedopsychiatrica, 55, 115-120.

Two groups were formed for the study; the control group watched a one hour relaxing videotape, while the treatment group participated in a one hour class consisting of yoga exercise, a brief massage, and progressive muscle relaxation. Decreases were noted in both self-reported anxiety and anxious behavior and fidgeting as well as increases in positive affect in the relaxation therapy, but not the videotape group. Cortisol decreased following both relaxation therapies.


Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Seligman, S., Krasnegor, J., Sunshine, W., Rivas-Chacon, R. Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1997). Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: Benefits from massage therapy. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 607-617.

Children with mild to moderate juvenile rheumatoid arthritis were massaged by their parents 15 minutes a day for 30 days (and a control group engaged in relaxation therapy). The children’s anxiety and cortisol levels were immediately decreased by the massage, and over the 30-day period their pain decreased on self-reports, parent reports, and their physician’s assessment of pain (both the incidence and severity) and pain-limiting activities.


Field, T., Henteleff, T, Hernandez-Reif, M., Martinez, E., Mavunda, K., Kuhn, C., & Schanberg, S. (1998). Children with asthma have improved pulmonary function after massage therapy. Journal of Pediatrics, 132, 854-858.

Thirty-two children with asthma were randomly assigned to receive either massage therapy or relaxation therapy. The children’s parents were taught to provide one therapy or the other for 20 minutes before bedtime each night for 30 days. The younger children who received massage therapy showed an immediate decrease in behavioral anxiety and cortisol levels after massage. Also, their attitude toward asthma and their peak air flow and all other pulmonary functions improved over the course of the study. The older children who received massage therapy reported lower anxiety after the massage. Their attitude toward asthma also improved over the study, but only one measure of pulmonary function (forced expiratory flow 25% to 75%) improved. The reason for the smaller therapeutic benefit in the older children is unknown; however, it appears that daily massage improves airway caliber and control of asthma.


Escalona, A., Field, T., Singer-Strunk, R., Cullen, C., & Hartshorn, K. (2001). Brief report: Improvements in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 513-516.

Twenty children with autism, ages 3 to 6 years, were randomly assigned to massage therapy and reading attention control groups. Parents in the massage therapy group were trained by a massage therapist to massage their children for 15 minutes prior to bedtime every night for 1 month and the parents of the attention control group read Dr. Seuss stories to their children on the same time schedule. Conners Teacher and Parent scales, classroom and playground observations, and sleep diaries were used to assess the effects of therapy on various behaviors, including hyperactivity, stereotypical and off-task behavior, and sleep problems. The children in the massage group exhibited less stereotypic behavior and showed more on-task and social relatedness behavior during play observations at school, and they experienced fewer sleep problems at home.

Field, T., Lasko, D., Mundy, P. & Henteleff, T., Kabot, S., Talpins, S. & Dowling, M. (1997). Brief report: Autistic children’s attentiveness and responsivity improved after touch therapy. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 27, 333-338.

22 autistic preschool children who had attended a special preschool half days for 2 years were assigned to 2 groups, touch therapy and a touch control group. Touch aversion decreased in both the touch therapy and the touch control groups, off-task behavior decreased in both groups, orienting to irrelevant sounds decreased in both groups, but significantly more in the touch therapy group.


Field, T., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., Fierro, K., Henteleff, T., Mueller, C., Yando, R., & Burman, I. (1998). Bulimic adolescents benefit from massage therapy. Adolescence, 33, 555-563.

Twenty-four female adolescent bulimic inpatients were randomly assigned to massage therapy a standard treatment control group. The massaged patients showed immediate reductions (both self-report and behavior observation) in anxiety and depression. In addition, by the last day of the therapy, they had lower depression scores, lower cortisol levels, higher dopamine levels, and they showed improvement on several other psychological and behavioral measures.

Cerebral Palsy

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Largie, S., Diego, M., Manigat, N., Seoanes, M., & Bornstein, J. (2005). Cerebral palsy symptoms in children decreased following massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 175, 445-456.

Twenty young children with cerebral palsy recruited from early intervention programs received 30 minutes of massage or reading twice weekly for 12 weeks. The children receiving massage therapy showed fewer physical symptoms including reduced spasticity, less rigid muscle tone overall and in the arms, and improved fine and gross motor functioning. In addition, the massage group had improved cognition, social and dressing scores on the Developmental Profile, and they showed more positive facial expressions and less limb activity during face-to-face play interactions.


Hart, S., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Lundy, B. (1998). Preschoolers’ cognitive performance improves following massage. Early Child Development & Care, 143, 59-64.

Preschoolers were given WPPSI subtests, including Block Design, Animal Pegs and Mazes, before and after receiving a 15-minute massage or spending stories with an experimenter. Results revealed that Performance on the Block Design improved following massage, and accuracy was greater on Animal Pegs in the massage group, particularly in more temperamental children.


Jones, N.A., & Field, T. (1999). Massage and music therapies attenuate frontal EEG asymmetry in depressed adolescents. Adolescence, 34, 529-534.

EEG asymmetry, specifically (greater relative right frontal activation,) is associated with negative affect. Depressed adults show stable patterns of this asymmetry. The present study assessed the effects of massage therapy and music therapy on frontal EEG asymmetry in depressed adolescents. Thirty adolescents with greater relative right frontal EEG activation and symptoms of depression were given either massage therapy or music therapy. EEG was recorded for three-minute periods before, during, and after therapy. Frontal EEG asymmetry was significantly attenuated during and after the massage and music sessions.


Schachner, L., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Duarte, A.M., & Krasnegor, J. (1998). Atopic dermatitis symptoms decreased in children following massage therapy. Pediatric Dermatology, 15, 390-395.

•Young children with atopic dermatitis were treated with standard topical care and massage by their parents for 20 minutes daily for a 1 month period. A control group received standard topical care only. The children’s affect and activity level significantly improved, and their parent’s anxiety decreased immediately after the massage therapy sessions. Over the 1 month period, parents of massaged children reported lower anxiety levels in their children, and the children improved significantly on all clinical measures including redness, scaling, lichenification, excoriation, and pruritus. The control group only improved significantly on the scaling measure.


Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., LaGreca, A., Shaw, K., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1997). Massage therapy lowers blood glucose levels in children with diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum, 10, 237-239.

Children with diabetes were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or relaxation therapy group. The children’s parents were taught one or the other therapy. The immediate effects of the massage therapy were decreased parental anxiety and depressed mood, depressed child anxiety, fidgeting and depressed affect. Over the 30-day period, compliance with insulin and food regulation improved and mean blood glucose levels decreased.

Down Syndrome

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Largie, S., Diego, M., Mora, D. & Bornstein, J. (2006). Children with Down Syndrome improved in motor function and muscle tone following massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 176, 395-410.

Twenty-one moderate to high functioning young children with Down syndrome receiving early intervention (physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy) were randomly assigned to also receive two 30-min massage therapy or reading sessions (control group) per week for two months. On the first and last day of the study, the children’s functioning levels were assessed using the Developmental Programming for Infants and Young Children scale, and muscle tone was assessed using a new preliminary scale (the Arms, Legs and Trunk Muscle Tone Score). Children in the massage therapy group revealed greater gains in fine and gross motor functioning and less severe limb hypotonicity when compared with the children in the reading/control group.


Diego, M.A., Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Friedman, L. & Shaw, K. (2001). HIV adolescents show improved immune function following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 35-45.

HIV+ adolescents recruited from a large urban university hospital’s outpatient clinic were randomly assigned to receive massage therapy or progressive muscle relaxation two-times per week for 12 weeks. To assess treatment effects, participants were assessed for depression, anxiety and immune changes before and after the 12 weeks treatment period. Adolescents who received massage therapy versus those who experienced relaxation therapy reported feeling less anxious and they were less depressed, and showed enhanced immune function by the end of the 12 week study. Immune changes included increased Natural Killer cell number. In addition, the HIV disease progression markers (CD4/CD8 ratio and CD4 number) showed an increase for the massage therapy group only.


Field, T., Cullen, C., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Sprinz, P., Beebe, K., Kissel, B. & Bango-Sanchez, V. (2001). Leukemia immune changes following massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 3, 1-5.

Twenty children with leukemia were provided daily massage therapy by their parents and were compared to a standard treatment control group. Following a month of massage therapy, depressed mood decreased in the children’s parents, and the children’s white blood cell and neutrophil counts increased.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Field, T., Seligman, S., Scafidi, F. & Schanberg, S. (1996). Alleviating posttraumatic stress in children following Hurricane Andrew. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 17, 37-50.

As compared to a video attention control group, the children who received massage therapy reported being happier and less anxious and had lower cortisol levels after therapy.


Field, T. (1995). Massage therapy for infants and children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 16, 105-111.

•Data are reviewed on the effects of message therapy on infants and children with various medical conditions. The infants include: premature infants, cocaine-exposed infants, HIV-exposed infants, infants parented by depressed mothers, and full term infants without medical problems. The childhood conditions include: abuse (sexual and physical), asthma, autism, bulimia, burns, cancer, dermatitis, developmental delays, diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, posttraumatic stress disorder, and psychiatric problems. Generally, the massage therapy resulted in lower anxiety and stress hormones and improved clinical course. Having grandparent volunteers and parents give the therapy enhanced their own wellness and provided a cost-effective treatment for the children.

Field, T. (1998). Touch therapy effects on development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 22, 779-797.

In this review empirical data are presented on the use of touch therapy, specifically massage therapy for improving the clinical course of several conditions including growth and development of preterm infants, reducing pain, increasing attentiveness, diminishing depression, and enhancing immune function. Potential underlying mechanisms for the massage therapy effects are proposed for each of these conditions. The general effects appear to derive from the stimulation of pressure receptors and the ensuing increase in vagal activity and slowing physiology which in turn facilitates a more relaxed behavioural state, decreases cortisol, and increases immune function, particularly natural killer cells.


Field, T., Kilmer, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Burman, I. (1996). Preschool children’s sleep and wake behavior: Effects of massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 120, 39-44.

The massaged children as compared to children in the wait-list control group had better behavior ratings on state, vocalization, activity, and cooperation after the massage sessions on the first and last days of the study. Also, the massaged children had a shorter latency to naptime sleep by the end of the study.