Have you ever wondered about a loved one’s touch and how it seems to calm and reassure? Consider a parent holding a scared or hurting child, or a comforting hug from a spouse. While touch may be the stuff of folklore, there is research to support the mysterious power it has.
Research finds that humans understand more emotions and feelings conveyed through touch than they do through facial expressions or words. This could be because as babies, touch is the first thing we experience. This first “language” has the ability to reduce not only feelings of stress but also production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Who hasn’t felt stress visiting the doctor, getting blood drawn for routine screenings or visiting the hospital for a test like an MRI? It begs the question that if touch is so beneficial in helping us feel better, why isn’t it used more in the medical industry?
Call it evolution. As a society, we prefer our personal space. We like our homes spaced far apart. We don’t like being pressed next to a stranger on a bus. Technology makes it easier to accomplish almost anything without ever talking to or seeing another human, much less touching one. And in medicine, the computer has become the gathering spot instead of the patient.
Therapies like chiropractic, massage and acupuncture, however, rely on touch as the conduit of healing. A chiropractor’s hands are the tool used to determine subluxations in the spine or joints out of place in other parts of the body. He or she then uses that tool to adjust and realign, supporting the healing aspect of touch.
Many studies support the pain-reducing benefit of a massage for patients with painful diseases (and all of us that are weekend warriors and still think we’re 25). If the pain is decreased, so are the stress feelings that accompany it, allowing healing to begin. Similarly, acupuncture relies on pressure points in the body that when “touched” by the needle, produce an effect somewhere else in the body.
Next time pain has you out of sorts, consider a different treatment, one that involves touch. The physical responses that touch produces can actually aid in the healing process and reduce stress, leaving both your brain and body in a happier state.
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