Is there a therapeutic element to thumb sucking?

The perceived wisdom is that children suck their thumb in order to feel secure and as a way of soothing themselves.  For many children this is obviously true but there may be another reason why certain children are drawn to sucking their thumbs.

From the perspective of Chinese medicine paediatrics, the thumb relates to the digestive system.  There is a mode of treatment commonly used on children in China called xiao er tui na which loosely translates as paediatric medical massage.  One of the moves in this system is to rub the pad of the thumb in a circular motion or to stroke repeatedly down the radial (outside) edge of the thumb.  Each of these techniques strengthens the baby or young child’s digestive system.  A child’s digestive system is considered to be undeveloped and immature until the age of about 7 or 8.  This is why babies and young children are so prone to colic, reflux and other digestive symptoms.  

So, doctors of traditional Chinese medicine consider that when a baby or child sucks their thumb a lot, they do so instinctively in order to massage and stimulate their digestive system.  Whilst you could say this is rather clever of them (the babies and children that is), we also know that habitual thumb sucking once the teeth come through can create problems.

So, if you are concerned that your child is becoming a habitual thumb sucker, you could try either rubbing the pad of the thumb in a circular motion or stroking downwards along the radial edge of their thumb, as shown in the video below.  You could do this two to three times a day, for up to two minutes each time.  At best it may reduce their need to suck their thumb.  But at the very least, you will actually be helping their digestive system to become healthy and strong!

Click on the link below to see the video:

Chinese medical thumb massage to strengthen the digestion

Is there a therapeutic element to thumb sucking?