Massage and touch therapy in neonates: The current evidence
Infant massage was first introduced in China in 2nd century BC. Massaging the newborn has been a tradition in India and other Asian countries since time immemorial. Various oil-based preparations have been used depending on the regional availability. There has been a recent surge in this ancient art particularly as a therapy among parents and professionals in the Western world. Evidence exists supporting the benefits of touch and massage therapy. We reviewed the literature to look at the various techniques of providing massage, its benefits, possible mechanism of action and adverse effects. The review suggests that massage has several positive effects in terms of weight gain, better sleep-wake pattern, enhanced neuromotor development, better emotional bonding, reduced rates of nosocomial infection and thereby, reduced mortality in the hospitalized patients. Many studies have described the technique and frequency of this procedure. Massage was found to be more useful when some kind of lubricant oil was used. Harmful effects like physical injury and increased risk of infection were encountered when performed inappropriately. The review also discusses the different hypotheses put forward regarding the mechanism of action. As of now there are very few studies describing the long term impact of neonatal massage.