Massage is for Teens, Too!

While the majority of my massage clients range in age from their thirties to seventies, I’m delighted to be seeing an increasing demand for massage for teenage clients!  Adults generally come in for relief of chronic pain of one sort or another, as well as injury related rehabilitation, or general maintenance.  Teenagers, too, will usually book a treatment for pain relief, but at this young age, they can more easily correct habits causing their pain, before they become long-term, debilitating issues.  Working on teenagers allows me the opportunity to help educate, relax, and unwind their muscles and minds, as a preventative self care method to instill good body mechanic habits as they move forward in life. Teens are subjected to a multitude of physical and emotional demands in our society, making massage a wonderful technique to help them relax.

The physiological and hormonal changes of adolescence are incredibly demanding on the body and mind.  Pubescent hormones trigger major growth spurts; teens can gain 3-4 inches of height in a single year.   Skeletally, these massive growth spurts are first seen in hands and feet, followed by lengthening of arm and leg bones, as well as the widening of chest and shoulders in boys, and the pelvis of girls.  These drastic changes in the skeletal system put stress on the adjoining soft tissues attached to the rapidly expanding bony framework; the muscle and tendon fibers cannot initially keep up. Results are seen as tight muscles, cramps, decrease in flexibility and coordination, and several painful symptoms similar to “shin splints”.  Add to that some of the extremely demanding and admirable athletic activities that many kids are involved in, and we can have some very tight muscles! Massage can help ease the stress put on the musculature, tendons, and ligaments by rapidly growing bones, through lengthening, stretching, and encouraging circulation to these soft tissues. 

Mental and emotional stress of adolescence is significant, and all too apparent in modern society.  Anxiety in teenagers is a common complaint, causing them to feel generally tense and unable to relax.  While “anxiety disorder” can be a serious mental health condition, generalized anxiety and worry over grades, peer groups, college, competitive sports, testing, dating and family conflicts, can be nerve wracking, and all too common in our highly competitive society. A relaxing massage session can truly allow teens to let go of their worries and have a screen-free hour or so, of truly complete physical and mental relaxation.

Phones, screen-time, desk-time, homework, and heavy backpacks wreak havoc on the developing teenage body as well! We all do it, for too many hours each day:  straining forward to text, type, read emails, and do deskwork, with neck and shoulders forward; but teens do it more, and likely in the most posturally inefficient ways, slumped on the couch or hunched over a small desk. The burden of technology and schoolwork leads to forward head posture, straining the neck musclulature and all that attach to, and support it, and can cause tremendous associated tension, including headaches. My fourteen year old’s backpack must weigh over twenty pounds, and is often flung carelessly over one shoulder, causing unnecessary strain to the neck, shoulder, pectorals and back. During a massage session I am able to work on relaxing the over-strained and over-lengthened muscles associated with the burden of modern-day life, as well as coach teens on simple postural realignment strategies and stretches to help reduce the recurrence of the issue.

Standard massage practices may seem uncomfortably intimate to some teenagers, so special considerations are taken into account; fully clothed massage is not uncommon. Dialogue is kept open during sessions, encouraging feedback, and a lighter than usual touch is often adopted. The physical and emotional comfort of the client is the most important component, enabling relaxation and release to be achieved. Parental consent for children under 18 is required, and discounts are available to high school-aged clients. Massage can be an amazing component of self- care for young and old alike.

Information for this article provided in part by Rachel Peterson, LMT, Massage Magazine, “Touch for Teens”, May, 2016. For further information or to schedule a massage appointment please contact Alessandra Jacobson at Alison Palmer Physical Therapy and Wellness Center, (970) 729-1737. We are located in the Cimarron Lodge at the bottom of lift 7. Wellness is the full integration of mind, body and spirit. We look forward to helping you towards a healthier life.