How young is too young for massage therapy?

Even babies can enjoy the benefits of massage.
Even babies can enjoy the benefits of massage.
Kohei Hara /Getty Images

I know adults have hectic lives, but it seems to me that the kids are the ones who really need the occasional massage. They juggle school, sports, chores, mean kids, social lives, acne, peer pressure and about a hundred or so other stressors. So, why do so many spas discourage or limit massage therapy for the under-18 crowd? We'll get to the rationale behind the rules soon, but first it's important to know what massage can do for your kid.

The vast majority of massage professionals will readily admit that no one is too young to appreciate and benefit from a good massage. In fact, the massage experience can begin as early as infancy and continue throughout life, as long as a licensed professional is used. Studies have repeatedly shown that massage helps kids and adults of all ages with stress and stress hormone levels, mood and behavioral problems. The immune system can also enjoy a much-needed boost from a regular rubdown. Plus, they're just fun and relaxing, and who doesn't need a little bit of that?

In addition, physically active teens are sure to appreciate the sports-related benefits of massage. For example, massage therapy has been proven to aid sore muscles and specific pain (such as lower back spasms or hamstring troubles). Other teen-specific pros include the fact that massage relieves the symptoms of PMS; plus, studies have shown that people are more alert following a session. SAT prep, anyone?

But there are a couple of factors to take into consideration before plopping your child down on a massage table. First, younger kids only need a 15 or 20-minute session to get the job done because an entire hour would be too overwhelming. In fact, parents can learn to give basic massages to younger kids at home. Since teens would probably balk at the idea of a mommy massage, they're best left to the capable hands of licensed massage therapists. Before you make a spa appointment, though, check the age requirements to avoid disappointment.

On the next page, you'll learn about spa requirements for children and teens, and why they exist.

Guidelines for Underage Massages

The rules governing underage spa massages are as variable as the services they offer. As it turns out, spas have some pretty good reasons to justify the rules. Some spas just want to keep the area adult-oriented, which is why they don't allow kids under a certain age to receive treatment unless a parent is present. You can't really blame them since patrons are paying a pretty penny to relax and unwind. Other establishments simply wish to avoid the potential liability of underage guests.

So, when you make an appointment it's important to do your homework first. Specific guidelines really depend on the spa you patronize, but can include any or all of the following:

  • At minimum, most spas will at least require a signed consent form from the minor's parent. The consent form protects the therapist and the establishment. To further cover his bases, the therapist should clearly outline what the parent and minor can expect to occur during the session. Kids who've never had a massage before might not realize how intense the pressure can be, or how little they'll be wearing.
  • Some spas flat out want people to be a certain age -- generally at least 16 or 18 -- to receive a massage or even just come into the facility.
  • Others require parents to stay on the premises during the session, and some establishments even want them in the room during the massage!
  • Partial clothing may be required. Most adults are accustomed to having a spa massage done while topless (face down!), at least. Contrary to this, some spas require minors to don a bathing suit or underwear.
  • Same-gender therapists are often assigned. So, if your teen is a girl, she'll probably be given a female massage professional. Because of this, the appointment will probably be given based on the schedule of the appropriate professional.

Guidelines are generally posted on the spa's Web site but even so, be sure to let them know you are making an appointment for a minor when you call. And it might not hurt brief your teen on what the massage will be like so he or she is prepared. There's no shortage of qualified masseurs and spas, so if something "rubs" you the wrong way simply move onto the next!

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Sources

  • Armstrong, Robert E. "Protect Yourself and Your Practice." American Massage Therapy Association. 2012. (Aug. 29, 2012). http://www.amtamassage.org/professional_development/ProtectYourself_ProtectYourPractice.html?utm_source=%2finfocenter%2fProtectYourself_ProtectYourPractice.html&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=redirect
  • Burke Williams. "Frequently Asked Questions." 2012. (Aug. 29, 2012). http://www.burkewilliamsspa.com/about-us/frequently-asked-questions/
  • Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock. "Spa Etiquette." 2012. (Aug. 29, 2012). http://www.chetola.com/spa_etiquette.html
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