Over the last 20 years, I noticed a trend with clients who report frequent low back pain and tension: as children, they were tickled by a parent or sibling until gasping and even sick. I grew curious about the connection between back challenges and tickling and did some research on-line. Turns out there are many articles about the adverse effects of tickling, mostly in parenting magazines. All the authors view tickling a child (or anyone!) beyond a few seconds as a form of abuse.
In one client’s case, his father tickled him to extreme measures, but when challenged, the father always argued his son was laughing when it was happening. This is not real laughter, but a nervous system override trying to help release the alarm and tension the brain and body are experiencing.
Bottom-line: don’t tickle your child or grandchild, and don’t allow anyone else to do it, either. According to the on-line articles, some adults use tickling as a way to be physically close to their child because they don’t know another way to do it. Some suggestions: hugs, giving piggy-back rides, sharing a lap blanket while reading or watching TV together, sitting together to brush a pet or sharing gentle shoulder rubs, foot massages or back scratches (the non-tickling kind!). These ways of connection will bring sincere smiles and laughter, and obviously, happier childhood memories — and maybe a healthier back in adulthood as well.
Lindsay Butler, LMT, RF