FOUR BENEFITS OF TOUCH FOR HEALTH: EVIDENCE-BASED
“a kiss may just be a kiss, a sigh may just be a sigh, but a touch can change your life” —(Ardiel, MSc & Rankin PhD)
A touch can speak volumes about how a person feels—love, hatred, anger, pain, or joy—at the same time it can spark these feelings in those who are touched. Experimental studies demonstrate that a touch can facilitate growth and development not only among human beings but also among nematodes, rats, monkeys, and other animals. Early Chinese writings also spoke of the healing power of touch through massage; in this sense, massage therapy is a touch of health and – for this reason – it is becoming very popular especially among health and fitness enthusiasts.
This article briefly presents four health rewards of therapeutic touch based on findings of research. Studies show that the touch of a massage therapist is a touch for health that can make a difference in the life of a client. It can:
1. Significantly reduce blood pressure and heart rate
When we experience stressful events, our blood pressure level increases and our heart beats faster than the normal 60 to 100 beats per minute. A 30-minute massage on the back, neck, and chest lowers systolic and diastolic BP by 4–8% while myofascial trigger point therapy reduces heart rate. According to Mahshid Givi “massage therapy was a safe, effective, applicable and cost-effective intervention in controlling BP of the pre-hypertension women...”
2. Reduce stress hormone levels and anxiety
Stressful events disrupt homeostasis or equilibrium. The body responds to this disruption by producing and releasing hormones such as epinephrine or cortisol. But chronic stress may be too much for the body to cope. When we are unable to cope with stress psychological and physical symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, and muscle tension appear. A 20- to 30-minute massage can certainly help. Feld and his co- researchers found that a chair massage provides relaxation and lowers anxiety.
3. Strengthen the immune system
The job of the immune system is to defend the body against the attack of foreign invaders. Several factors such as stress, nicotine, and sedentary life weaken the immune system. One way to strengthen the immune system is massage therapy. Rapaport and his colleagues noted that a single session of Swedish massage therapy increases lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight diseases). This increase boosts immune function.
4. Enhance sports performance and minor injury rehabilitation
Sports massage is thought to help the readiness of athletes for competitions. Several studies reviewed by Brummit show that sports massage increases sports performance and helps in the recovery of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. However, Brummit emphasizes that further studies are still needed.
Touch is a universal language. The touch of a massage therapist is especially given with a specific purpose—to relieve stress, to lower blood pressure and heart rate, to strengthen the immune system, or to promote injury rehabilitation.
Technology is giving us the opportunity to learn. In the comfort of our homes we can watch videos on touch for health or listen to touch for health tutorials. They take time but they are worth the effort. For the avid reader you can always check at Massagetutor.
2. Brummitt, J. The role of massage in sports performance and rehabilitation: current evidence and future direction. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2008; 3(1): 7–21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953308/
3. Feld, T. et al. Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. Int J Neurosci (1996); 86(3–4) 197–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8884390
4. Givi. M. Durability of effect of massage therapy on blood pressure. Int J Prev Med. (2013) 4(5) 511–516.
5. Ironson, G. et al. Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system's cytotoxic capacity. Int J Neurosci (1996); 84(1–4) 205–217. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8707483
4. Rapaport, MH, Schettler, M. and Bresee, C. A Preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal and immune function in normal individuals. J Altern Complement Med (2010); 16(10)\ 1079–1088. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107905/