Is It Safe For Children To Use Massage Chairs?

February 6, 2014
 By Dr. Alan Weidner
February 6, 2014
 By Dr. Alan Weidner

Is It Safe For Children To Use Massage Chairs?

I have had massage chairs either in my clinic or in my showroom for well over 10 years and I can say, without reservation, that I have never seen a child not enjoy a massage chair! And, I have had literally hundreds of kids sit on our chairs over those years and have never seen or heard a child complain about the massage being delivered by a chair. Not only is it a fun thing to sit on, what with the remote controls and such, but they actually love the feeling of the therapy.

Well, that is my experience in my showroom. If I didn’t know anything other than that, I would positively and absolutely say that kids and massage chairs are a match made in heaven. There are no studies out there showing if massage chairs are good for kids. But, what does the literature say about children and massage therapy in general? Is there something that might suggest that massage is contraindicated for children? Here are some interesting points about children and massage therapy:

stress1. Kids have stress, just like their folks, but they don’t always manifest that stress quite the same way that we do. Well, we all know massage is a perfect musculo-skeletal antedote for stress and anxiety, so a massage chair is the perfect therapy for your kids to relieve any stress they may be experiencing. Just because they don’t exhibit the same symptoms of stress as an adult does not mean they don’t feel it significantly and deeply. It also doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from a sessions on a massage chair.

Constant stress, in children and adults, results in elevated cortisol which can damage immune cells, thus weakening the immune system. Massage chairs that can relieve the stress just like kids toys and, in turn, give the immune system a break.

Divorce, school, friends, etc. can be contributors to your child’s stress. The massage chair can actually become a source of therapy for your children as well as for you. The kids might think it’s a big toy, but they are in effect getting actual therapeutic benefit when they sit in the chair and use it.

If your child struggles with other medical conditions that are exacerbated by stress, eg. diabetes, stress-induced asthma, and auto-immune diseases, the massage from a chair may also help with those symptoms as well.

2.  Nationwide Children’s Hospital actually has a staff of full-time, licensed massage therapists because of the profound healing effects of massage. I am aware of a hospital in Canada that, at the time of this writing, had 30 massage chairs available to the patients and their families.

What’s interesting about the Nationwide Children’s Hospital is that they offer massage to patients with the following conditions:

Cystic Fibrosis
Heart/Lung Transplant

Childhood Cancers
Bone Marrow Transplant
Limb salvage

Sickle cell disease
Bleeding Disorders

Migraine headaches
Spinal cord injuries
Head injuries

Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa
Failure to Thrive

Traumatic Brain Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries
Orthopedic conditions

Chemical Dependency

To be honest, I was surprised by the number and severity of the conditions in a children’s hospital to which massage therapy can cater. Pretty impressive list.

3. Though the research on this is sparse, yet promising, many massage therapists claim that massage helps children with autism. Some of these very limited studies “showed that massage therapy did provide significant benefits in the areas of social communication, adaptive behavior, and sensory profile.” Autism is becoming one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in America. If massage can help and, extrapolating from that assumption, massage chairs can offer anything similar, they could be a great therapeutic modality for autistic kids.

Other therapists report that for children with autistic symptoms show increased relaxation during activities, moreso than any other relaxation method.

4. In a 2003 study of the Journal of the Canadian  Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,  massage and exercise therapy were found to help ADHD kids. It was reported in the study that after 6 weeks the kids that were in the massage group exhibited better anger control, improvement in mood, more restful sleep and an improvement in social functioning in 2 of the 3 participants, and improvement in focusing at school. It was also found that parents felt like they could contribute more to their child’s well being, after having been disappointed with the traditional medical approach.

Like the studies done in #3 above, the sample size was too small to make definitive conclusions, but all of these studies led researchers to believe that the results merited more, longer-term studies on these subjects.

whoa signContraindications for Massage Therapy in Kids
Although massage therapy is obviously a great therapy for children, there are also some contraindications of massage and, from what I have read, they are much the same as those for adults. If you have any of the following conditions, please consult with a doctor to confirm that massage would be OK for your child.

I might just add that although diabetes is on the list, my Type 1-Diabetic 27 year old daughter uses the massage chairs reqularly without any negative consequences.

Also, when cancer is mentioned, my training as a chiropractor taught us not to apply massage to a part of the body that has a cancerous tumor. However, if you have cancer in a body location distant to the areas that the chair will apply massage therapy, you are probably OK to use the chair. I have a recent customer who has liver cancer and his oncologist said it was fine to use a massage chair. So, again, consult with your doc if you have any of these conditions or if you have any other concerns about using a massage chair with your medical condition.

Contraindications can be local or complete. “Local” means that in certain situations massage may still be indicated depending on the locale of the condition.  “Complete” generally means that it is definitely a no-no to apply massage therapy. Again, if you are not sure, or concerned about using a massage chair in any of these situations, consult with your doc. Here is the list (taken from

Local Contraindications:

Acute inflammation
Broken bone /over a non-consolidating fracture
Recent surgery
Inflammation of the skin
Varicosities (varicose veins) over sites with deep vein thrombosis
Local contagious conditions
Blood clots
Open wound or sore
Local irritable skin conditions
Undiagnosed lump
Acute lesion
Malignancy/active cancer
Skin infection
Acute flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis
Recent burn
Phlebitis (inflammation of a vein)
Phlebothrombosis (blood clots in the veins)
Arteritis (inflammation of the arteries)

Complete Contraindications:

Burns (severe)
Infectious disease
Anaphylaxis (life threatening allergic reaction)
Appendicitis (painful inflamed appendix)
Cerebrocardiovascular accident (stroke)
Insulin shock or Diabetic coma
Epileptic seizure (convulsions)
Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Pneumothorax (air or gas within the chest cavity around the lung)
Atelectasis (a collapsed portion of the lung which does not contain air)
Severe asthmatic attack
Syncope (fainting or loss of consciousness)
Acute pneumonia
Advanced kidney failure, respiratory failure, or liver failure (a very modified treatment may be possible with medical consent)
Diabetic complications such as gangrene, advanced heart or kidney disease, or very unstable high blood pressure
Eclampsia (a severe form {life threatening} of pregnancy-induced hypertension resulting in seizures)
Hemophilia severe type (a hereditary bleeding disorder)
Hemorrhage (involves rapid and uncontrollable loss of blood
Arthrosclerosis (severe forms of stiffening or hardening of the joints
Hypertension (unstable) (conditions that are not stable i.e., post stroke or heart attack)
Medical shock (a life-threatening medical emergency and one of the leading causes of death for critically ill people: the body reacts, and produces insufficient blood flow to reach the body tissues)
Fever above 38.5 degree C or 101.5 F (significant)
Some highly metastic cancers (diagnosed not to be terminal)
Systemic contagious or Infectious conditions

This list is from a website for massage therapists. Of course, a massage chair is different from actual hands of a massage therapist, so some of these conditions may not necessarily be subject to the same caution as would be a massage therapist. Again, if concerned or in doubt, consult with your physician.

I hope this article puts your mind at rest about whether you child can use your new massage chair or not. Of course, if you don’t want you little ones on your chair at all…just put in in your bedroom and you won’t have to worry about any of the above-mentioned studies or contraindications! In a lot of cases with kids, I’d be more concerned about the health of the massage chair than the health of the kids. The kids will be fine…not always so sure about the chairs, though!

Dr. Alan Weidner



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