Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TCM Pediatric Massage for Parents & Caregivers: An Introduction

As part of my ongoing Chinese medicine blog, I'm writing a series of short articles on pediatric massage for parents & caregivers. In these articles, I'll share techniques that you can use can use to nurture & support the health of your little ones, and to treat common pediatric illnesses, at home.

Research has shown that children benefit in so many ways from loving touch from their parents and caregivers. Massage promotes well-being and helps kids relax. It alleviates illness. It also supports parent-child bonding and helps parents feel more calm, empowered and grounded in the face of the sometimes overwhelming task of parenting.

To launch this massage series, here is a brief introduction to Chinese pediatric massage, known as pediatric tui na.

What Is Pediatric Tui Na?

Pediatric tui na is one of the main modalities used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for treating children for a wide range of health conditions. It is also used to prevent illness and to promote children's general vibrancy and well-being.

What is Tui Na?

Tui na (which translates as “push grasp”) is a brilliant form of medical massage originating from China and based on the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tui Na, as practiced on adult patients, uses a variety of hand techniques and active and passive stretches to restore correct anatomical musculoskeletal relationships and neuromuscular patterns and to promote the circulation of Qi and Blood. It is used to treat injury and chronic pain conditions as well as internal medical conditions.

Pediatric tui na is widely used in Chinese hospitals and clinics to prevent and treat almost all common pediatric diseases, including internal medical disorders, trauma, and diseases of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. In particular, pediatric tui na effectively treats pediatric digestive and respiratory disorders.

What Age Range Can Benefit from Pediatric Tui Na?

Pediatric tui na is suitable for children under twelve years of age. Its effects are more pronounced on children under six, and it is especially effective in the treatment of infants.

Chinese medicine practitioners have always recognized that young children have a different energetic make-up from adults. So, pediatric tui na has a special repertoire of points, lines and regions of the body that is particular to children. These points differ significantly from the points along the meridian system used in treating adult conditions.

In children over six, TCM practitioners are more likely to combine pediatric tui na with other therapeutic techniques, such as adult tui na manipulations, acupuncture, needle-less acupuncture or shonishin, and herbal medicine.

At-Home Treatment Techniques for Parents or Caregivers:

A seasoned pediatric tui na practitioner is familiar with a variety of specialized hand techniques, as well as the complex system of energetic points and pathways on a child's body.

With a little instruction, however, you--the parent or caregiver--can use some of these techniques to care for your little ones at home.

But How Do You Massage an Active, Wiggly Child?

Good point! It's often easy & pleasant to massage your young infant; but it may feel like your massage days are over as soon as your little one starts crawling! Toddlers and preschoolers are on the move, with a lot more on their agenda than lying still and receiving massage. They typically have short attention spans and may not be cooperative.

A few points can help address the wiggle factor. First, in pediatric tui na, less is more. It is more effective to massage just one or two points than to try to massage the whole body. Because the points selected are energetically potent and known to directly affect a particular part of the body, or a particular physiological process, the impact of massaging just a few points will be more profound than a general full-body massage.

Second, many pediatric tui na techniques are performed on the hand. In children, the hand is a microcosm of the whole body, and massaging certain points on the hand strongly impacts different aspects of internal physiology. Massaging the hand is easier to do on a squirmy kid than, say, massaging the belly. Mom can easily massage her child's hand while nursing or feeding, and it doesn't require a lot of extra energy from her.

To sum up, pediatric tui na techniques often call for many repetitions an one point, i.e. rapidly rubbing 100 circles in the palm of the hand. This can actually be done quickly and mindlessly on a nursing child, and have a strong positive impact.

Just a few more points before getting started:
  • Make sure the space where you're massaging your child is warm. During the massage, you're child's pores and meridian system will be open, and he/she will be more vulnerable to chilly drafts.
  • Bedtime is a great time for massage, as massage is generally relaxing for little ones, just the way it is for adults, and it goes hand-in-hand with pre-bed snuggling. Some systems of energetic work caution against doing pediatric massage less than one hour before or after the child has a bath, because the combination of bathing and massage can be overwhelming to the child's delicate system.

And, of course, feel free to contact me for help with these and other healing techniques to support your children's health.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on do-it-yourself pediatric massage techniques!

Sources of Information for the Article:

Coursework with Dr. Raven Lang, OMD, L.Ac. (2009) and Alex Tiberi, L.Ac. (Pacific Symposium, 2002).

Chinese Pediatric Massage Therapy: A Parent's & Practitioner's Guide to the Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Disease by Fan Ya-li, Boulder: Blue Poppy Press, 1994.

Chinese Pediatric Massage: A Practitioner's Guide: Techniques and Protocols for Treating Childhood Illnesses and Chronic Health Problems, by Kyle Cline, LMT, Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 2000.