Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 3-5 percent of children and it’s known that symptoms carry on to adulthood affecting about 4% of adults. ADHD affects males at higher rate than females in childhood, but this ratio seems to even out by adulthood. While medication is often used to treat the condition, research suggests that periodic massage can have some profoundly positive results with dealing with the symptoms and helping sufferers clear their head, calm themselves, and focus.
ADHD condition is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Adults with ADHD may have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks, or completing work within time limits. If these difficulties are not managed appropriately, they can cause associated behavioral, emotional, social, vocational, and academic problems.
Besides well documented symptoms like hyperactivity, other symptoms may include stubbornness, having a “short fuse” when it comes to temper, defiance, and a strong tolerance for very loud music or other noise. ADHD sufferers may also seek physical stimulation, including touch. It’s not uncommon to see a strong liking for very hot or very cold showers, back rubs, and activities that stimulate any of the senses, such as video games, sports and most any kind of exercise. It’s that touch-seeking behavior, and lack of focus demonstrated by some with ADHD that drove researchers to see if massage could help.
Two recent studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami reported that regular massage therapy can be an effective treatment for kids and adults with ADHD. One study found boys who received short daily massages were observed by their teachers to be more focused in their schoolwork, and they fidgeted less. The children also rated themselves as happier than those who participated in a relaxation therapy program.
Another study involved boys and girls aged 7-18. Each subject received a 20-minute massage twice a week. They showed immediate improvement in their moods and longer-term behavioral improvement in the classroom. They also reported feeling happier and their teachers found them to be more attentive.
In adult studies, massage has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to mitigate the active fight-or-flight response triggered by ADHD. Massage may also help improve math computation performance and raise alertness levels. There is also evidence that massage decreases depression and increases mental focus.
So, massage can work for ADHD sufferers. Is massage a viable alternative to ADHD medication? Or maybe an addition to help medication be more effective? Will it work for you? It’s really a case-by-case determination. So, book a massage for yourself, or your child (you will be present during the session), and let your certified massage therapist know your massage session goals, and leave the rest to us. The results, especially over repeated sessions, may pleasantly surprise you.