How Massage Therapy Impacts Bullying

Discover how massage can help kids cope with bullying

Woman getting a massage

There is no denying that massage feels great and melts away stress. But regular massages also may help manage the stress associated with bullying. By reducing muscle tension, massage therapy can help a victim of bullying overcome a number of anxiety and stress related issues while improving focus and resilience. Massage also reduces muscle stiffness, which also can be brought on by bullying. As a result, many parents are turning to massage as an integral part of the healing process.

A Closer Look at the Benefits

Research shows that massage can decrease stress hormones while increasing levels of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This fact could explain the positive effects of massage.

In fact, studies have shown that the benefits of positive touch cause a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that, among other things, is associated with feelings of trust and connection. It also is known to lower anxiety levels.

Other ways to stimulate the secretion of oxytocin include hugging and cuddling family members. Besides the natural desire to hug or place a hand on someone’s shoulder, researchers have discovered that a quick massage of the shoulders or back may be helpful as well, especially in helping kids handle the stress of bullying.

How Massage Impacts Bullying

While massage cannot prevent bullying, there is evidence that it can help ease the negative effects of it.

For instance, in one study, Swedish researchers concluded that “daily touching by massage lasting between five and ten minutes could be an easy and inexpensive way to decrease aggression among preschool children.”

The study also found that massage lowers levels of aggression, anxiety, and stress. And, that the incidences of psychosomatic illnesses are fewer.

Meanwhile, another study found that children that are aggressive or bullies could benefit from massage therapy as well. What they found is that massage therapy can actually lead to less aggression overall.

Next Steps for Massage Therapy

While more research needs to be done, some schools have started to implement a five- to ten-minute massage break. During this time, students give each other a shoulder massage. What they have found is that this helps kids connect with one another and it reduces the levels of aggression and conflict in the classroom. Massage also improves the students’ concentration levels and their ability to stay on task with their school assignments.

To make the massage time a safe experience, the students are taught to always ask permission before touching another student. Additionally, students are reminded that they always have the right to say no if they do not want to participate in the massage process.

Researchers indicate that it is normal for students to just not be in the mood for massage on certain days and that is fine.

However, they have found it is rare for students to refuse a massage because they generally like the process and know that they feel better afterwards.

Of course, additional research needs to be done on the benefits of peer massage in schools. But many schools in Sweden and New Zealand have successfully implemented peer massage as a means for reducing stress levels. Schools where massage has been implemented have shown a decrease in bullying and aggression. Meanwhile, they also report an increase in the students’ self-esteem and empathy toward others.

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