A back or full-body massage chair is a valuable piece of equipment to have at home. You’re most likely to appreciate its value after a long day of work or tending to your children. The massager does wonders for tense, aching muscles, and help relieve pent up stress. You may even think of giving your child a chair massage if you’re one of those parents who is always looking for ways to keep your children calm and happy.
Believe it or not, their little bodies get stressed too from running, jumping, and being active throughout the day. They also experience emotional stress from their home or school environment. However, can children use massage chairs? Are they as safe for kids?
Massages and Massage Chairs
Massage therapies, on the whole, provide physical and health benefits for children of all ages, including infants. Research suggests that hand massages are theraputic and healing. They can help alleviate stress, anxiety, symptoms of certain childhood conditions, and promote a sense of well-being. Infant massages can help reduce colic, gas, irritability, and help improve nervous system function.
Like traditional hand massages, massage chairs can provide these benefits in the comfort of your home. Some use air or vibration to get the job done while others are designed to mimic the manual techniques of a professional massage therapist. In fact, many of them are engineered to stimulate relaxation from the neck all the way down to the feet. Pretty much an in-house full-body massage! The different settings allow you to massage the targeted body parts separately or all at once.
However, as inviting as massage chairs are, they are not appropriate for children of all ages. This might come as surprise to you as it does for other parents. Many parents allow their child to jump right into the massage chair at home or at the mall without worrying about safety. However, children have delicate muscles and bones that can easily get sore or injured if the massage technique is too aggressive or intense.
Some chairs indicate the required height, size, and width of the individual attempting to use the equipment. They also allow you to choose a setting that provides a gentler massage session that may be appropriate for a child.
Massage Benefits for Children
Pressure from school, parental expectations, peer pressure, and life changes, such as divorce or death of family member, can take a toll on the physical and mental health of children. When children are stressed, it can cause them to get irritable, restless, anxious, or lose focus. Excess physical and emotional stress can also lower their immunity and cause them to get sick easily.
Taking your child to the doctor may not help relieve stress, especially if he or she is too young to take medication. Massage therapy, on the other hand, offers a natural way to enhance your child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It involves using the hand, a device, apparatus, or machine (such as a massage chair) to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissue under the skin.
The most important thing to keep in mind is carefully selecting a gentle, age-appropriate manipulation setting when using a massage chair. Once you’ve sorted this part out, you can expect your child to benefit in various ways:
- Relax the body and mind: Gentle strokes, kneading, tapping, deep circular movements, and vibrations are common massage techniques that help relax the body and mind and restore balance. Manipulating the soft tissue activates the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.
- Increase blood circulation: Increased blood flow and oxygen to various parts of the body work as good stress busters, reduce inflammation, and activate natural healing from within the body.
- Relieve pain and discomfort: Aches and pains are common in active children, particulary those involved in sports or athletics. A massage chair can come in handy for relieving pain or discomfort from muscle stress, tension, and strains. More children, particularly teenagers, are experiencing neck stiffness, neck pain, and headaches from looking down at their phones and electronic devices constantly. Regular massages can help to relax those strained muscles resulting from overuse, increase joint function, and prevent chronic pain.
- Improve sleep and concentration: Growing children need plenty of sleep to keep their immune system and body functioning at optimum. A regular dose of massages is thought to help children get sound sleep at night. Getting enough sleep has it perks. It helps to increase energy, behavior, concentration, memory, and academic performance. It also reduces stress, anxiety, depression, moodiness, hyperactivity, and irritability.
- Increase flexibility: Children need to be flexible for all bending and twisting involved in their daily activities. In addition to exercise, massage helps to decrease muscle tension, increase range of motion, and reduce soft tissue injuries such as strains and sprains.
- Improve health conditions: Various studies suggest that massages can be a natural and effective way to reduce the severity of medical conditions such as asthma, and autism. Additionally, a study done in 2003 on massage for school-aged children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) concluded that it can help reduce symptoms of ADHD.
When Are Massage Chairs Safe or Appropriate for Children?
Massage chairs are designed for adults matching a certain height and size. The nodes and rollers are situated to target certain areas of an adult body. Therefore, if a kid under age 12 with an average body size sits in the chair, the massager elements may reach sensitive areas of their body and may result in injury.
With this in mind, massage chairs may be appropriate only for children when they reach a certain age, height, and size, and meet certain health status requirements. Experts recommend talking to your child’s pediatrician before introducing your child to any type of massages, and especially mechanical machines such as a massage chair. The doctor can determine whether the child can be safely treated with the equipment.
There is also a non-exhaustive list of contraindications for massage in children. Some conditions featuring on the list are swelling, fever, open sores, acute infections, diabetes, broken bones, and recent surgery. Furthermore, children with certain disorders, childhood disabilities, and structural or spinal issues may require the attention of a trained, professional massage therapist.
Barring the contraindications, massage experts say children age 12 and above may use a massage chair. Anyone below 12 may find a chair massage a bit too intense even when it is set to the most gentle setting. In this case, a pediatric massage therapist can provide safer therapy.
To accommodate children, some of the latest models have features that allow you to adjust the chair to suit the height and weight of adolescents and teens. This allows the rollers and nodes in the massaging system to adjust to the their body.
You can also adjust the duration of the session based on age. The suggested appropriate treatment duration is 15 to 20 minutes for children ages 12 to 15 and 20 to 30 minutes for for those 16 and above. It all depends on the intensity of the session. A good rule of thumb is to start on the lowest or most gentle setting for about 10 minutes and then adjust as needed.
It is important for parents or a massage therapist to be present in the room with adolescent children especially. In addition to the recommendations of your child’s doctor, you should refer to the owner’s manual. Each brand of massage chairs is engineered differently and will have unique features and cautions related to use.
What About Massage Guns? Are they Good for Children?
A massage gun, also called a percussion massager, is a hand-held machine that uses pulsation to stimulate blood circulation. This, in turn, helps to reduce aches and pain and speed up muscle recovery. The handy tool allows the user to focus the pulsations on the area of the body they wish to target, such as the shoulder, upper back, lower back, or thigh.
The pulsation technique, called percussive therapy, provides a deeper and more intense massage. This makes it perfect for increasing blood flow to the targeted muscles, relieve tension, and “wake up” the body up before a workout or athletic activity.
No wonder it is one of the favorite tools in the pro athlete’s arsenal. The pulses help to improve muscle function, thereby reducing aches and pain from muscle strains or sprains during strenous activities.
People who are stressed or unable to sleep also use the massage gun to relax and get a good night’s zzz. Considering these benefits, you might be tempted to use a massager gun on your child if he or she is an athlete or appears restless. However, there seems to be no official study on massage guns for children.
Remember, children’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones cannot withstand the intensity of aggressive massages such as those provided by percussion massagers. Besides, most guns do not have settings that are gentle enough for their growing bodies.
Gentler Alternatives to Massage Chairs and Massage Guns
You can consider gentler alternatives if you cannot afford a professional pediatric massage therapist or a massage chair that is suitable for children. Foam rollers, for example, are a popular and inexpensive substitute.
As the name suggests, foam rollers are made from foam which instantly lets you know that they are gentler for kids and less likely to cause injury if used correctly. In fact, foam rollers are the “IN” apparatus for young athletes who prefer to “roll out” before and after a game or workout.
“Foam rolling,” also known as self-massage, is a massge technique that supports myofascial release. The fascia, or myofascia, is the tough but pliable band of connective tissue that covers the muscles and bones.
Foam rollers are typically cylindrical in shape, inexpensive, portable, come in a variety of textures, sizes, and densities, and are easy for children to use. The apparatus is positioned between the ground and the area of the body being treated. For example, the neck, back, quads, or hamstrings.
Rollers are gentle and safe for everyday use and your child can even roll out or massage larger areas of the body (such as both of legs) at the same time. Another advantage is they allow the child to control the pressure exerted on the muscles, thereby reducing the risk of bruises. A 5 to 10 minute session a day can loosen up the muscle, reduce muscle soreness, and prevent overuse injury.
While there is little research out there on the effectiveness of roller massagers, studies claim that they can also help achieve the following:
- Increase flexibility and range-of-motion (ROM)
- Improve short-term athletic performance when used in the warm-up routine
- Improve muscle recovery post-activity and minimize the chance of delayed-onset-of-muscular-soreness (DOMS)
Other popular alternatives that offer a fun yet functional way to take the stress off your child include:
- Massage balls
- Inflatable peanut balls
- Inflatable saddle rolls
- Massage pillows
- Body tappers percussion massagers
These apparatuses come in bright colors, different sizes, shapes, and textures to provide both massage and sensory therapies.
Establishing a massage therapy routine for children as part of their growth and development has many health benefits. Overall, it can help children live a more active, happier, and healthier life.
Ideally, you may prefer to have a licensed pediatric massage therapist take care of this aspect. However, not everyone can afford the luxury of professional routine massages for their kids. This means you’ll need to set up your “massage parlor” at home. Needless to say, one of the most challenging things is to identify massage techniques, equipment, or apparatuses that are safe, gentle, and appropriate.
Indeed, massage chairs are a cheaper way to get a massage whether at home or a spa. If your child meets the age, size, weight, and health status requirements, it should be safe to allow them to enjoy a body massage as often as recommended by their pediatrician. Remember safety first. Follow the instructions for use in the massage chair manual, follow any guidelines provided by the child’s doctor, and supervise your child during the massage session.