Autism, Asthma, Children and Massage (Part I)

Over the next two weeks I want to take a specific, then more holistic, look at how massage therapy helps improve health conditions by using specific studies that explored the benefits of massage therapy for children with autism and asthma.

The first study, reported by the Healthy Fellow, examined the benefits of massage therapy for children with autism ages 3 to 10. The study cited, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, featured a group of 60 autistic children who received either traditional Thai therapy or standard sensor integration therapy.

While all children in the study saw similar improvements in various symptoms of autism (behavioral problems, hyperactivity, passivity, etc.) only the children who received massage saw a decline in anxiety levels and other, general behaviors associated with autism.

The other study was similar, this one of children with asthma. These children, in groups aged 4 to 8 and 9 to 14, were randomly assigned to receive either massage therapy or relaxation therapy.

While all children in the study saw an improvement in their attitudes towards asthma, the group aged 4 to 8 who received massage therapy saw an improvement five times greater than the group that received relaxation therapy. Furthermore, the 4 to 8-year-olds experienced a dramatic improvement in their peak air flow readings (of over 21 percent!) while the children who received relaxation therapy experienced no such improvement.

The children aged 9 to 14 who received massage therapy experienced a marked increase in their attitudes towards asthma, experiencing an improvement four times greater than the children who received relaxation therapy. And while their peak air flow increased more so than did the children’s in the other group aged 9 to 14, it increased by less than the group of 4 to 8-year-olds that received massage (only 4.5 percent).

Still, pretty dramatic results in both studies for the small amount of non-invasive massage administered (the children in the first study received 16 1-hour massages over 8 weeks, while the children in the other study received 20-minute massages before bedtime for 30 nights).

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