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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 4 (2007), Issue 1, Pages 23-34

Randomized Controlled Trials of Pediatric Massage: A Review

1Integrative Touch for Kids, 8306 Wilshire Boulevard #530, Beverly Hills, CA 90211-2304, USA
2University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801-4819, USA

Received 15 March 2006; Accepted 26 August 2006

Copyright © 2007 Shay Beider and Christopher A. Moyer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The existing reviews of massage therapy (MT) research are either limited to infants, adults, or were conducted prior to the publication of the most recent studies using pediatric samples. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of pediatric MT are reviewed. A literature search yielded 24 RCTs of pediatric MT, defined as the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being in recipients between 2 and 19 years of age. Because RCTs of pediatric MT varied considerably in the amount and types of data reported, quantitative and narrative review methods were both used. Single-dose and multiple-dose effects were examined separately. Among single-dose effects, significant reductions of state anxiety were observed at the first session (g = 0.59, P < 0.05) and the last session (g = 1.10, P < 0.01) of a course of treatment. Effects for salivary cortisol (g = 0.28), negative mood (g = 0.52) and behavior (g = 0.37) were non-significant. Three of eleven multiple-dose effects were statistically significant. These were trait anxiety (g = 0.94, P < 0.05), muscle tone (g = 0.90, P < 0.01) and arthritis pain (g = 1.33, P < 0.01). Results of studies not permitting effect size calculation were judged to be generally consistent with quantitative results. MT benefits pediatric recipients, though not as universally as sometimes reported. Numerous weaknesses endemic to MT research (e.g. low statistical power, frequent failure to report basic descriptive statistics) are identified, and recommendations for future pediatric MT research are discussed.