Study Finds Infant Massage Can Lower Bilirubin Levels In Preterm Newborns

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Study Finds Infant Massage Can Lower Bilirubin Levels In Preterm Newborns

Published on 06-16-2015

"ChadD" is an acupuncturist and lives in Minneapolis and has authored 367 other posts.

People are often surprised at the sheer range of conditions one may see as an acupuncturist. Further, many people are surprised to find out that acupuncture is but one part of a much larger system, Chinese Medicine, which includes herbal therapies, bodywork (tuina), and medical qi gong (energywork). Then there is the range of patients from 100 year olds to newborns...

Most acupuncturists in general practice will see children and infants with a variety of conditions. For many newborns you are not going to do acupuncture, but you will do massage or the system within Chinese Medicine called tuina (twee-na). Babies often heal and change quickly, compared with adults, and it is amazing at times what simple techniques can be used to create some powerful changes.

For premature babies, jaundice is common as their bodies cannot effectively excrete bilirubin. While jaundice appears in full term babies as well, premature babies will often be treated with lower bilirubin levels to avoid complications. These complications may include a variety of forms of brain damage, deafness, or cerebral palsy.

Researchers from the Shahid Hasheminejhad Hospital in Iran conducted a study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on bilirubin levels (jaundice) in premature babies. They evaluated 40 premature newborns in their NICU and divided them into two groups - one a massage therapy treatment group and the other a conventional treatment group. Conventional treatment is generally phototherapy (light therapy) until the bilirubin levels decrease.

The massage group received the same phototherapy treatment as the control group with the addition of two sessions of 20 minute massage daily. Researchers then measured bilirubin levels and bowel movements to evaluate the effectiveness of the massage therapy addition. They found a significant reduction in bilirubin levels and a significant increase in bowel movements in the treatment group vs. the control group. They conclude that "through massage therapy the bilirubin level in preterm newborns can be controlled and a need for phototherapy can also be delayed."

The reasoning behind this change is not understood from this study. Perhaps it is a simple improvement in circulation, perhaps it just simply touch. Certainly there have been a number of studies looking at the importance of touch in infant development. This is probably a large part of the change recognized by this study.

This post has the following associations:

Issues/Symptoms: cerebral palsy, jaundice

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