To Touch Is To Give Life
These words by Michelangelo never get old and in the era where we are forced more than ever to keep distance from each other these words have even a stronger meaning.
As a massage therapist I recognize touch as an extremely important medium to improve a person’s health, wellbeing, lift their mood and help to relax.
Over the last decade, an extensive study has proven an incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch.
A warm and caring touch has profound effects on our nervous system. It activates the body’s vagal nerve which is involved in triggering ‘rest and digest’ responses, the mode in which relaxation and healing processes happen. It can reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) release and calm certain bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Touch is our primary language of compassion and is fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
Research from 2018 has shown that healing touch therapy and oncology massage provided immediate pain relief to cancer patients.
Another study from the same year, has concluded that manual massage may serve as a non-pharmacological option to improve behavioural and psychological symptoms in a person living with dementia. It also suggested that healthcare professionals and family caregivers should be encouraged to apply massage to their patients and relatives.
Hand massage has been proven to calm down agitated behaviour in patients with dementia. Verbal encouragement to eat combined with touch also brought better results, than verbal encouragements on their own.
If you care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, touch can provide a bridge to communication. Holding a hand of that person when you are out on a walk with help to bring them to the present moment and make them feel calmer and less confused. It will help them to feel more connected to you and the present moment.
Touch does not need to mean massage or holding a hand. Everyday life creates and opportunity for enhancing lives of people that we care for by touch.
It can involve helping your elderly parent to fix their hair, or put lotion on feet and hands or just give them gentle rub on the shoulders. It will benefit the both of you by positively influencing your nervous system to give you and your loved one a better quality of life.