Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari on February 20, 2022

Pediatric Tuina: Massage Therapy for Children’s Health

Pediatric tuina massage therapy has been shown to safely and effectively aid in the recovery of many common childhood ailments. Here's what you need to do about performing the massage at home.

Pediatric tunia massage therapy min scaled

Massage therapy isn’t just beneficial for adults. Many of the same benefits can also be applied to children.

Pediatric tuina is gaining in popularity in the United States among parents looking for safe, alternative treatments for common childhood ailments.

Read on to learn more about how pediatric tuina massage therapy may be able to help your child. You’ll also learn tips for how to administer it at home.

What is Pediatric Tuina Massage Therapy?

Performing tuina massage therapy on your child at night before bed may help them sleep better.

Pediatric tuina is a safe and gentle Chinese massage for kids that can help relieve various childhood ailments. As one of the treatment approaches in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), physicians often use this type of massage with other treatments, such as herbal formula, acupuncture, scraping, and cupping.

Pediatric tuina also adheres to TCM’s concept of syndrome differentiation and treatment. According to TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling, physicians will check the pulse and tongue of the child beforehand. Only upon confirmation of a diagnosis, an appropriate tuina massage session will be prescribed.

Using syndrome differentiation as a guide, physicians will determine specific parts or acupoints of the child’s body to work on. Tuina massage for children aims to balance yin (passive) and yang (active) energies, tonify the internal system, promote qi and relax the muscles.

In a tuina session, the therapist uses hand manipulation techniques like pushing, grasping, kneading, or rubbing in a light, fast, and soft motion. While tuina for adults and kids are generally the same, they differ in intensity.

“The strokes of pediatric tuina on kids are light and gentle. In adult tuina, different acupuncture points are used,” explains Physician Lim.

Benefits of Pediatric Tuina Therapy

Many ongoing studies prove the efficacy of this Chinese massage. Research suggests that pediatric tuina may be beneficial for the management of infantile fever. At the same time, previous studies show that this massage may be beneficial in the management of acute pediatric diarrhea.

In another study, results reveal that tuina serves as a viable intervention for childhood anorexia. Lastly, clinical trials are underway to determine the effectiveness of pediatric tuina for attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How To Administer Pediatric Tuina

As a guideline, tuina is suitable for children above six months old. For those below this age group, physicians usually recommend newborn pediatric tuina, which comprises gentler and slower strokes. No matter how old your child is, Physician Lim advises parents to get a TCM practitioner to administer pediatric tuina for optimal results.

“A qualified TCM practitioner will be able to administer the techniques more accurately and choose the correct strokes and acupuncture points according to clinical findings,” says Physician Lim, adding that a caregiver can also carry out pediatric tuina at home, provided they have the appropriate training.

Precaution: Bear in mind that home tuina should only be for prevention and as part of the management process – it is not for treating diseases. The latter will require TCM practitioners to diagnose and administer the appropriate treatment. “Please seek a professional’s attention should any health conditions persist or worsen after pediatric tuina, or if the condition is an emergency like a high fever,” Physician Lim notes.

For children with health complications like malignant tumors and severe cardiovascular, respiratory, hepatic, and renal diseases, tuina must be administered with caution. Physician Lim also lists a few areas where tuina is not appropriate: 

  • Near affected areas of acute infectious disease, for example, cellulitis, osteomyelitis, erysipelas, or bone tuberculosis
  • Near damaged skin or open wounds such as burns, scalds, abrasions, lacerations, and sores
  • Areas with joint dislocations or early stages of bone fractures

What To Expect During A Massage Therapy Session

A TCM physician can help show you how to administer a pediatric tuina massage at home.

The physician will begin by asking about your child’s medical history, lifestyle, medications, and other important information. Following this, the physician will pinpoint the specific areas of the body to focus on according to the child’s physical symptoms, age, and other conditions.

Each session usually takes around 30 minutes and will start from the head, upper body, arms, chest, and torso. Then the therapist will move on to work on the back and lower limbs. The therapist will usually advise you on the number of sessions that your child needs. They may also recommend some simple tuina techniques to try at home.

“If you are administering tuina on your kids at home, make sure the physician has shown you the proper steps and which points to use. Avoid massaging with cold hands and ensure your child is in a comfortable position,” Physician Lim shares. “Be patient and meticulous. Locate acupuncture points accurately and use the right technique.”

It’s also important that parents or caregivers do not ignore any signs of discomfort during the session as some children may feel light-headed from the tuina. “Ask them how they feel and stop immediately if something is not right. Also, do not delay getting appropriate treatment if your child’s condition requires professional attention – for example, high fever, fracture, or other severe symptoms,” Physician Lim stresses.

You can also use herbal remedies to relieve your child’s uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, Bo Ying Compound contains different herbs to help with phlegm, vomiting, crying at night, fever, as well as cold and cough.

Other Types of Pediatric Massage Therapy

Apart from tuina, there are also other pediatric massages that parents can consider. Studies show that massage therapy, regardless of its type, has positive effects on pediatric conditions. Even simple massage techniques that parents can do at home will help soothe a child.

The International Association of Infant Massage in the United States, for example, offers online massage programs that draw from both Indian and Swedish massage traditions. Parents are encouraged to take up the course to ensure they are massaging their babies correctly. Techniques include holding their little ones gently and stroking them in a loving way. Other than helping the baby to relax, this promotes parent-child bonding as well.

Pediatric tuina is an excellent Chinese massage therapy that can help improve your child’s health and well-being. Most kids easily accept tuina because it is relaxing and doesn’t involve any scary needles or bitter medicine! As always, consult your healthcare provider or a TCM practitioner before starting any tuina sessions.

However, if your child is very sick or if there is no improvement in his or her symptoms, should seek medical attention immediately.

References

  1. 2019. Chinese pediatric Tuina on children with acute diarrhea: study protocol for a randomized sham-controlled trial.
  2. 2020. Pediatric tuina for the treatment of fever in children. 
  3. National Library of Medicine. 2014. Evaluating the efficacy of Tui Na in treatment of childhood anorexia: a meta-analysis.
  4. International Association of Infant Massage. Massage your baby.
  5. https://pilotfeasibilitystudies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40814-020-00704-z

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