There’s the old saying, “no man is an island.” Human loodeings need each other. We get a sense of comfort as we confide in our friends and loved ones. We even experience some mental clarity which emits to the enhancement of our physical vitally as we receive encouragement, advise, and hugs, from others during hard times. Touch is the first of our senses to develop, and its appropriate use, can have profound effects on our general wellbeing.
Touch activates part of the orbitofrontal cortex of the loorain and stimulates production of a hormone known as oxytocin, what scientists call the “care and connection” hormone. This reaction in the brain leads to feelings of safety, trust, and a reduction in stress and anxiety. Researchers suggest that touch is truly fundamental to human communications, bonding and health. -The Advocate.
Power of Touch In Infants
According to researchers, a 15-minute massage, three times per day, for ten days resulted in 21-47% greater weight gain than standard care alone in premature babies. This weight gain was not due to more calorie intake, but of the increased vagal activity from the massage, which, in turn, stimulated gastric motility.
Vagal activity during massage therapy with moderate pressure, instead of light pressure, was significantly related to weight gain. In addition, gastric motility increased in the same study and was significantly related to weight gain.
Also, the preterm infants who received massage therapy were discharged six days earlier on average than control preterm infants, saving approximately $10,000 in hospital costs per infant. This goes to show the importance of skin to skin contact even in our earliest stages of growth.
Power of Touch In Adults
The simple act of touching someone conveys emotions that go beyond verbal communications. In adults, regular massages can help combat anxiety and depression, muscle spasms, heart disease, and can improve overall quality of life and contribute to longevity.
In studies, employees receiving chair massages showed a significant reduction in blood pressure, anxiety and job stress, and had increased speed and accuracy on math problems. According to incorporate massage, employees with carpal tunnel and tendonitis issues saw a decrease in pain and discomfort by 14%. On those doing repetitive movements, weekly chair massage reduced the occurrence of repetitive stress injuries by 37%.
Power of Touch In Sick Patients
Patients with ailments ranging from burns to eating disorders have been shown to benefit from massage therapy, with reductions in stress hormone levels, anxiety and clinical symptoms, according to researchers.
Massage can enhance the quality of life for diabetic clients by improving their circulation, as well as to help them cope with stress more effectively. In addition, massage tends to lower blood sugar levels by approximately 20 to 40 points.
HIV-positive men receiving daily massages had an increased number of immune cells to combat the virus, as well as a significant decrease in the primary stress hormone cortisol. There were decreases in anxiety and increases in relaxation which were significantly correlated with increases in Natural Killer (NK) cell number.
When it comes to arthritis sufferers, regular massages help strengthen the muscles and tissues around the affected areas, and can help them cope with pain and stiffness, improve sleep, and lessen the severity of the condition overall.
According to LMT Michele Schuman, massage helps relieve cancer patients of treatment-related anxiety, pain, fatigue, assists respiration, psychosocial symptoms, and other side effects in these patients.
Power of Touch in the Elderly
The elderly can benefit from a healing touch as well. In terms of massage, I’ve noted the preference of moderate or medium pressure, compared to light pressure, even in smaller sized clients advanced in age. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage assists the elderly in the following ways:
- Reduces stress
- Deepens relaxation
- Deepens breathing
- Lowers blood pressure
- Stimulates circulation
- Relieves joint pain
- Reduces swelling and edema
- Stimulates bowels
- Stimulates flow of lymph
- Improves sleep
- Releases endorphins
- Decreases fear and anxiety
- Brings sense of well-being
- Decreases isolation
The elderly suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from touch as it reduces agitation, anxiety, improve sleep and contributes to overall well-being.
So, the professional and appropriate use of touch provides mental, physical, and emotional healing in infants, to healthy adults, to those with illnesses, and the elderly. Even, physical affection in terms of hugging, holding hands, cuddling, etc., can soothe rapid heart rate, elevate our level of oxytocin, the hormone that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation and also known as the “care and connection hormone,” as well as improve our mood. Let us strive to become a healing presence through the power of our healing touch.
Ardiel, Evan L, and Catharine H Rankin. “The Importance of Touch in Development.” Paediatrics & Child Health, Pulsus Group Inc, Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865952/#b24-pch15153.
Field, T, et al. “Burn Injuries Benefit from Massage Therapy.” The Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1998, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9622469
Field, T, et al. “Massage Therapy Reduces Anxiety and Enhances EEG Pattern of Alertness and Math Computations.” The International Journal of Neuroscience., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8884390.
Field, Tiffany, et al. “Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review.” Infant Behavior & Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844909/.
Floyd, Kory. “Seven Reasons to Be More Physically Affectionate.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Sept. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/affectionado/201309/seven-reasons-be-more-physically-affectionate.
“How Important Is Touch in the Care of an Alzheimer’s Patient?” The Advocate, 7 Aug. 2016, www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/entertainment_life/health_fitness/article_470abc42-5284-11e6-ac0a-8f16b7b4745f.html.
Ironson, G, et al. “Massage Therapy Is Associated with Enhancement of the Immune System’s Cytotoxic Capacity.” The International Journal of Neuroscience., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8707483.
Lohman, Joan S. “Massage For Elders.” Massage For Elders — American Massage Therapy Association, 21 Sept. 2001, www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/1778/massage-for-elders.
Schuman, Michele. “The Benefits of Medical Massage.” Memorial Sloan Kettering, 14 Oct. 2014, www.mskcc.org/videos/benefits-medical-massage.
Wilcox, Amelia. “Incorporate Massage Blog.” Benefits of Workplace Chair Massage: Is It Really Worth It?, 6 Jan. 2015, www.incorporatemassage.com/blog/benefits-of-corporate-massage-at-work.