Massage Therapy Can Help to Manage Pain in Children with Sickle Cell Disease

What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a condition in which red blood cells are not shaped as they should be. Red blood cells look like round discs. But in sickle cell disease, they’re shaped like sickles, or crescent moons, instead.

These sickle shaped cells get stuck together and block small blood vessels. This stops blood from moving as it should, which can lead to pain and organ damage.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease?

People with sickle cell disease can have pain crises. In a pain crisis:

  • Pain may happen in any part of the body.
  • Cold, stress, illness, or dehydration can bring on pain.
  • The pain may last a few hours, a few days, or sometimes longer.

How Is Sickle Cell Disease Treated?

Stem cell transplant (also called bone marrow transplant) is the only known cure for sickle cell disease. Transplants are complex and risky, and for now are an option only for some patients.

Scientists are studying gene therapy for sickle cell anemia. One day, it’s hoped that doctors can stop the disease by changing or replacing the abnormal gene that causes it.

But even without a cure, kids with sickle cell disease can lead fairly normal lives if they follow their treatment plan.

The treatment plan might involve:

  • Immunizations and daily doses of penicillin to help prevent infection. Kids with sickle cell disease should get all recommended vaccinations, including the pneumococcal, flu, and meningococcal
  • Folic acid supplements, which can help kids make new red blood cells.
  • Hydroxyurea, a medicine that makes the cells less sticky. This helps decrease the frequency and intensity of painful episodes and other complications. Hydroxyurea is taken every day.
  • L-glutamine, another medicine. It’s used if hydroxyurea isn’t working well or someone still has pain crises even with hydroxyurea.

Child Pain Management with Massage

When it does happen, massages and medicines can be used to help manage pain from sickle cell.

Massage offers both physical and psychological benefits including Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine and in patients who have received organ transplants, just to name a few. Researchers at Nationwide Childrens recently published a study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology that revealed the benefits of massage in reducing pain, anxiety and depression in children with Sickle Cell Disease.

The first study that measured the effects of massage in children with Sickle Cell Disease in a home setting. Eighteen of patients parents were trained by massage therapists, while 16 participants were used as a control group. They found children in the experimental group were significantly less depressed, less anxious and suffered from less pain after receiving massages from their parents.

Massage therapy is an inexpensive pain management technique can relax the muscles, increase circulation and help medication take a more effective route.

At the Tampa Massage Clinic, located in Tampa, Florida, nothing is more important than human touch. To schedule an appointment with Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Pediatric Massage Instructor, Jakki Bosco LMT, please call (813) 298-5603.

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