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The Power of Touch: let the healing begin!

For most of us the events of 2020 really brought in to focus the importance of our health and our need to be connected with people. We all experienced various levels of isolation and social distancing and did our best to stay in contact with friends, family and colleagues via phone and video links. But it wasn’t the same. Why? Because it lacked physical human touch! Apart from all the obvious worries of the year the biggest thing that affected our emotional and physical health was ‘touch deficiency’. Scientific studies have proven many times how human touch is vital to our health. From the moment we start to exist in the womb our development and wellbeing depend on it and the need does not stop in adulthood.

The benefits of therapeutic touch

As an osteopath (and osteopathy patient!), I know how a trusted therapeutic touch can calm and ease tension, reduce the experience of pain and aid healing and have always felt privileged to be able to work with patients in this way. I am therefore hoping to promote (safe, appropriate and welcomed) hugs, and remind us all not to leave our tactile lives behind but make them a health goal for our future.

Our skin is the largest organ in the body and its importance is just as widespread. Trusted touch can make us feel happy, calm, safe, supported, cared for, empathised with and can initiate the release or suppression of various hormones having positive affects on blood pressure, the immune system, pain response and more!

Studies have shown that premature newborn babies that are exposed to touch therapy put on weight much faster than those who just receive standard medical treatment. Also, babies who suffer touch deficiency can develop problems related to social interaction and decision making later in life. Studies have shown appropriate positive touch, such as a pat on the shoulder can improve performance at work, at school and better responses to treatment from patients. Even NBA basketball teams that touch each other more were found to win more games!

The health benefits of touch

  • Improves mood and reduces stress and anxiety by releasing hormones such as Oxytocin ‘the love hormone’.
  • Warm touch reduces blood pressure and heart rate by calming the nervous system.
  • Reduces experience of pain- Touch helps reduce the experience of ‘threat’ and reduces the release of substance-P which heightens our pain response
  • Improves immunity by reducing the amount of stress hormone, cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Keep up your touch quota!

Whether you live with people or alone there are always ways to activate the touch response to help boost your health.

  • Make use of the potential hugs already available: reclaim your hands from the smart phones as often as possible and snuggle up with your family.
  • Where appropriate, be tactile! Both the giver and receiver will feel the benefits of a hug, reassuring shoulder pat or hand hold.
  • Seek manual therapy for recovery or relaxation. Whether Osteopathy, massage, or another therapy the human contact will have affect even beyond your presenting problem.
  • Hug your pets – holding and stroking cuddly pets is known to calm and bring joy.
  • Self massage – take time to massage and stroke your own joints and skin using your hands or tools such as tennis balls or foam rollers to massage your muscles.
  • Treat your skin – to spa days, moisturisers, warm showers or baths, soft fabrics around your house.

Obviously, stay safe, follow the current guidelines for public health, but if you need to heal from physical or mental pain, don’t go it alone. People need people and we are always here for you at The Odiham Clinic where your health and wellbeing is our primary goal.

Katie Clayton, Associate Osteopath