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
New England surgeon and noted author Bernie Siegel writes, “in your touch is the gift of life and without it we die. For an infant this is true and for adults it can be psychologically and literally true. Within us live many personalities, and if they are not touched they die and take their body with them.”
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.”
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
Massage has been used in one form or another as far back as human memory and recorded history allow. People are hard-wired for massage… Upon injury, we instinctively reach out and touch or rub the affected body part to help relieve pain and begin healing!
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.”
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.”
Massage therapy feels great, helps us get the touch we need to grow and develop and is useful in treating a variety of physical, medical, mental and emotional problems. To learn more about the many benefits of massage and the power of touch, visit Intuitive Bodywork Massage Therapy today!