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The Power of Touch. Massage – Art or Science?

A client of mine, an internationally renowned actress, once said to me, there are two luxuries in life that “I cannot, and will not do without” they are my hair dresser and my massage therapist.

She put both of these therapies at the top of her overall shopping list and quite rightly so. I must admit as far as the feel good factor goes, I personally find both of these therapies hard to beat. So what is it that makes these two activities so pleasurable and necessary to both women and men alike? I put it down to long term tactile depravation and lack of touch. Now before you get all excited and take a moral high ground, I am not talking about individuals, but the human race as a whole.

Lack of touch prohibits the development of the principal channels of sensory reception. When there is too little or too much stimulation of the senses, then the sensory channels are shut down. Failing to learn the sensate language is like failing to learn to read and write. Without it we are denied essential information necessary to our survival, well-being and expanded consciousness. Sensations are the building blocks of emotional intelligence that allow us to understand and get along with others.

Human beings originate from the primates, with genetic cousins among other apes and monkeys, we are coded with almost identical DNA, you are a lot of the time closer to your primate cousins DNA than that of the person you share your bed with, but there the similarities end. The primates constantly groom and touch each other, using tactile touch as a means of communication and sensory stimulation and social interaction. This is evidently missing in many human populations and social groups. Human beings are universally using less and less touch and tactility, and this is leading to many dysfunctional children and adults living in more and more societies around the world today. In some communities around the world parents and grandparents are fearful of physically touching and caressing their own children in case their intentions are misunderstood.

When you have had a hard day at work, most people try to relax and turn toward pleasurable activities of some kind. Once we have taken care of our survival needs, the next thing on the agenda is usually the search for pleasant things to do. It is biologically innate to move toward pleasure and away from discomfort. Discomfort makes us contract, withdraw, or shut down, whereas pleasure invites us to extend, expand, and tune into our senses. If our overall purpose is to stimulate pleasurable feelings, then touch is probably the most inviting way to accomplish it.

The reason for our love of tactile stimulation is physiological, and psychological in origin.

Touch is one of the five senses. Nerve endings in the skin form touch receptors. They respond to a specific type of stimulus, but they are not uniformly distributed over the skins surfaces, this means that some areas of the body are more receptive than others. Once a receptor is stimulated, it sends nerve impulses to the brain, which locates and identifies the stimulus and assesses its significance. The more intense the stimulus, the greater the frequency of the nerve impulses, and the greater the sensation. Massage is a perfect way to achieve this level of stimulation

Massage. The origin of the word is obscure, but is probably from the Greek ‘massein’ to knead, or Arabic ‘mass’ to touch. Massage has been used by most of the ancient civilizations for thousands of years. But in a modern world this has greatly diminished. In many countries around the world today, massage is a component of training for many health care practitioners. But in other countries, massage therapy does not exist as a legally separate recognized profession.

The effects of massage are physiologically and psychological in nature. Massage therapy performed on healthy individuals increase muscle flexibility, relaxation and deceased stress levels. The Psychological effects are the increased well-being that usually occurs with positive touch. The most profound changes from massage seem to occur in the body in areas that were experiencing pathology or trauma, such as tissue that was edematous, fibrosed, Ischemic, or just really painful. Psychological benefits are most evident in people experiencing stress and depression.

Massage is used for Pain Control, for improvements in the Circulatory System. It is used on the Lymphatic System to improve toxic waste removal, and used to aid Respiratory Function, it has been used on people suffering with AIDS and HIV related secondary infections, and it used to great benefit, as previously mentioned for people suffering with stress related anxiety and depression.

 

What massage will not do?

It will not directly increase muscle bulk or tone. Massage will not directly decrease the amount of Cellulite or adipose tissue in the system.

The therapeutic value of massage extends beyond relaxation, this in itself is remedial and has positive consequential effects and benefits. Massage eases muscle tightness and increases circulation. However some techniques are termed applied because they are used for specific effect, for instance to improve Lymphatic Drainage or to assist peristalsis of the colon. There are many people of the opinion that massage is an integral part of their lives, with regular massage assisting them to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life, some even tell me that they could not cope with the life that they lead without the use of massage.