Nondrug Options for ADHD

by: Nancy Witting
Boy, Meditation, Yoga

Massage; yoga; evaluating treatments


Professional massage can be an effective treatment for kids with ADHD, helping them to develop an age-appropriate ability to focus, a calmer disposition, and even increased confidence, according to studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. Their research reported that regular massage therapy helped children be more attentive, less fidgety, better behaved in the classroom, and generally happier. Two 20-minute massages a week are enough to show significant improvement in ADHD children. Because these kids have trouble staying still for prolonged periods, they better tolerate shorter, more frequent massages.

For parents seeking skilled bodywork for their kids, chair massage is a great choice, done for about 20-30 minutes at a time, with the child fully clothed. In addition, the massage therapist may be able to train you to perform home massages on your child between professional sessions.


Yoga uses physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and deep-relaxation techniques to calm and strengthen the central nervous system. It can help children and teenagers with ADHD get in touch with their bodies in a relaxed and non-competitive way. The asanas promote stretching, strengthening, and balancing. Deep breathing promotes relaxation and mental awareness, and alternate nostril breathing calms the mind and is thought to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

A study conducted at the School of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences, University of Sydney, found that yoga has merit as a complementary treatment for boys with ADHD who are already stabilized on medication, particularly after the medication has worn off in the evening.

Evaluating Treatments

Before jumping into any alternative treatment, seek as much information about it as you can, including any reports of its effectiveness. You know your own child best, and you are in the best position to evaluate your child's tolerance for a given approach. Give each approach some time to work before moving on to another one. If one seems to be helping some, but not enough, consider adding another approach.

The NACE offers these tips to help you recognize treatments that are questionable:

  • Overstatement and exaggerated claims are red flags. Be suspicious of any product or treatment that is described as astonishing, miraculous, or an amazing breakthrough.
  • Be suspicious of any treatment that claims to treat a wide variety of ailments. Common sense tells us that the more grandiose the claim, the less likely it is that there is any real merit behind it.
  • Do not rely solely on testimonials from people who say they have been helped by the product or the treatment.
  • Be skeptical about claims that a treatment is being suppressed or unfairly attacked by the medical establishment.