My son Kaleb, age four, recently got a professional massage. I took him to see the Maya Abdominal Massage Therapist I see because I wanted her to assess his ribs/stomach area. My son’s sterno-costal angle (the area where his xyphoid process or sternum is located) is very large. The normal sterno-costal angle is supposed to be 90 degrees; however, my son’s is more like 110 degrees.
(This is what the ribs should look like. Taken from http://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/thorax/deck/7976540)
(Here is a picture of my son’s rib cage. Notice how much his lower ribs are lifted upward, this is an indication of a very tight psoas. Also notice the angle between the 2 lower ribs, it is a little larger than that of a “normal” rib cage.)
A normal angle means there is balanced tension within the abdominal wall. I was concerned that his diaphragm or another part of his body might be drawn up under his lower ribs, causing them to flare outward. The look of one’s ribs might not be a huge medical concern; however, knowing what I know about the body, I wanted to get it checked out. Flaring of the ribs outwards leads to a diastasis, shearing of the spine, a weakened core, sluggish digestion, a weakened pelvic floor that can lead to overactive bladder and wetting the bed at night. In addition, flaring of the ribs is an indication of a very tight psoas and also leads to all of the things previously mentioned and more. Before seeing her, I already knew my son had a really tight psoas, a diastasis and he regularly wets the bed at night.
The massage therapist also agreed that his sterno-costal angle was larger than most kids. As she massaged and manipulated his ribcage, she said that everything moved very smoothly. His ribs were not being pushed in any particular place because of muscle tension. She felt that he had just not grown into his ribs yet. She did say to pay attention to it because if he doesn’t grow into his ribs, he may likely have back issues when he gets older. She confirmed that he has a very tight psoas as well. After this, my anxiety about something being wrong with him was greatly decreased.
I told her about him constantly wetting the bed, so she assessed the placement of his bladder. His bladder was resting right on his pubic bone and the muscles surrounded his groin were extremely tight. She showed me massage techniques to help lift his bladder up and loosen his groin. She said that men with really tight groin (hip flexor/illiacus area) often have erectile dysfunction later in life—um, no thanks, I do want grandkids someday.
She also worked on Kaleb’s neck area, which is always really tight. My son loved it. He lasted about 40 minutes before he got a little board. (By the way, I had never taken a child to a massage therapist before so I wasn’t sure how they occupied their fidgetiness. My massage therapist brought out a doll and showed what she would be doing on the doll. She offered to have Kaleb hold the doll, but he was too cool for that. She did give him a maraca to play with, which he did.) At the end she said he was the most relaxed child she has ever massaged. She contributed that to the fact that I regularly massage him. After taking the Holy Yoga Touch training several years ago, I felt like I had enough skills to massage my children. I have been regularly massaging all four of my children since then. As a tired momma, I did have to tell them that if they want a massage they have to ask me before 7:30 p.m. For other tired mommas out there, you will get the fact that after 8:00 p.m. you are pretty much toast. If you don’t have the ability to take a training to learn some massage techniques, buy a book. I am so grateful to be able to do this for my children. Children need positive touch in their lives. Children also have tension in their bodies and massage is a great way to help alleviate that tension. By age two, my twin girls already had knots in their shoulders. Unfortunately, muscle tension is a part of our American culture at any age.
One more thing…when I massage my kids, I use a massage oil. The massage oil is olive oil mixed with some type of essential oil. So slather up your hands with some oil and snag a kid.