The Importance Of Touch

The Role Of Massage Therapy

Alan Jordan
Sep 1, 2014 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post

In the thirteenth century, Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II removed a group of infants from their families and put them in the care of nurses who were instructed to attend only to the infants’ most basic needs—the infants could be fed and bathed but not held, hugged or spoken to. It was Fredrick’s intent to see what language the babies would speak if they were raised generically, without benefit of touch or adult verbal stimulation. Unfortunately, Fredrick did not find his answer. All of the infants died before they were old enough to speak.

Our Innate Need For Touch

Image for post
Image for post

In the 1950’s Dr. Rene Spitz became concerned about the unusually high infant mortality rate in several United States orphanages. He conducted an extensive study and discovered that when infants are deprived of physical and emotional support of the mother, or another primary caretaker, they develop severe developmental disorders, including weight loss, the inability to walk, eat with a spoon, use the toilet and talk. The most critical cases result in death. His conclusion, based on the observation of thousands of babies in various settings, was that babies left alone tend to become ill or die, while babies who are touched flourish.

Massage therapist Dawn Nelson is the founder of an organization named “Compassionate Touch for Those in Later Stages.” She has worked with the elderly and dying for almost twenty years. According to Nelson, “Touch deprivation is a largely ignored yet major cause of depression among the elderly in our society.” Concerning the need for touch throughout life, developmental psychologist Sharon Heller writes regarding our five senses, “Nor does touch wane as we age, as do vision, taste, smell and hearing. Rather it continues to communicate caring, pleasure, love—even healing—all our lives.”

Image for post
Image for post

Physiologically, human beings are made to touch and to be touched. Touch has been called the “mother of all senses.” According to Zach Thomas, a Presbyterian minister who is also a massage therapist, this metaphor reminds us that the anatomical foundation of our communal nature is our touchy skin.”

In human embryos, the sense of touch develops before the other senses, appearing at approximately six weeks. Neural cells responding to forms of touch are the basis from which the other senses emerge. From the cradle to the grave, human beings have an innate need to be touched. Perhaps the greatest benefit of touch lies in its ability to connect people to each other, individually, and to humankind. According to Heller, touch has the “power to mellow us when agitated, reconnect us when isolated, and to renew our spirit.”

From the cradle to the grave, humans need positive, loving, caring touch in order to grow, to thrive and reach our highest potential. Massage Therapy is one of the best ways to experience healthy healing and needed touch

The Role Of Massage Therapy

Image for post
Image for post

Massage Therapy involves the manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body to prevent and alleviate pain, discomfort, muscle spasm, and stress; and, to promote health and wellness. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) defines Massage as, “a manual soft tissue manipulation that includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body… with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client.”

Image for post
Image for post
Massage therapy improves functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems and may improve the rate at which the body recovers from injury and illness.

Massage Therapy enhances body function, aids in the healing process, decreases muscle reflex activity, inhibits motor-neuron excitability and promotes relaxation and well-being. Massage Therapists manipulate both superficial and deep muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints and other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels and organs including the gastrointestinal and reproductive organs (i.e. In treating constipation, fertility, breast health, etc).

In his book A Brief History of Massage, author Robert Noah Calvert writes, “Massage has survived and continues to evolve because it is the most fundamental means of giving care, affection and aid between human beings. Its healing qualities differ from those of other modalities because massage confers its benefits through the character and healing intention of those who give and receive it. The true value of massage comes from the intrinsic, inherent need of humans to have contact with one another.”

Image for post
Image for post

Learn More

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store