Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Touch. Without it infants fail to thrive and adults experience more stress and depression, along with increased conflict and loneliness in their lives. Touch deprivation also contributes to lower relationship satisfaction and more secondary immune disorders (those that are acquired rather than inherited genetically). Now more than ever as social media and the internet are replacing face-to-face interactions, we find ourselves living with the unfortunate paradox of communicating more and connecting less and, according to research, it’s taking a toll on us.
In a recent article Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, talked about the effects of social media on touch. She observed social interactions at several airports and made a shocking discovery. No one was touching. Children, parents, everyone was on their phone. “I think social media has been really detrimental to touch,” reported Field. “Being on your phone is distancing people physically from each other…It used to be in airports, you’d see people hugging and napping on each other. Now they’re just not touching.”
So why does touch have such a far-reaching impact on our lives? According to an article in Psychology Today, “Evidence is growing that receiving touch promotes physical well-being, in part by reducing stress and by encouraging healthy behaviors and coping strategies.” The Touch Research Institute has documented the positive effects of touch therapy on people at all stages of life and concluded that these activities “enhance attentiveness, alleviate depressive symptoms, reduce pain, reduce stress hormones and improve immune function.” Clearly, our overall wellness is closely tied to touch. The pleasant sensation that encourages us to keep touching nourishes babies and binds adults, and weaves well-being into the fabric of our lives.
Therapeutic touch by an experienced massage therapist, while not a substitute for the affectionate touch of a loved one, can provide many ongoing physical and health benefits. Mini massages that are often included in other spa services such as facials and body treatments can also be effective forms of touch, primarily by reducing stress.
Although most of us are familiar with the physical effects of massage such as looser, more relaxed muscles, other benefits people experience may surprise you. Here we’ll take a look at five, lesser known benefits of massage therapy.
Massage Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Feeling overwhelmed? Depressed? Consider getting a massage. Therapeutic touch, in a safe, inviting and professional environment, can be extremely relaxing. In fact, our bodies respond to massage, and other forms of non-threatening touch, by releasing “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. The effect on the body is measurable — massage can help to reverse the stress response by calming our minds and boosting our mood.
Massage Improves Your Sleep
Lack of sleep can negatively impact nearly all aspects of our lives. So how can something that is so foundational to our well-being be at times so elusive? While there are many contributors to insomnia, regular massage can help to improve sleep quality by triggering the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in regulating our moods, helping us to feel calm. Serotonin is also essential for the production of melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies when it's time to sleep.
Massage Boosts Your Immune System
Massage’s ability to improve our sleep can in turn have an impact on our immune systems. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to become sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Massage can also have a direct impact on our immune system. “Researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions,” says Jeff Smoot, 2015 President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “Those same benefits can translate to people seeking to fight off the common cold, flu and other seasonal illnesses.”
Massage Can Enhance the Appearance of Your Skin
In an article in Women’s Health, skin care expert Kimara Ahnert talked about massage and its affect on our skin - “massage increases blood flow, which plumps up slack skin, encourages lymphatic drainage (the shuttling of toxins out and away from cells so that more nutrients can travel in), and adds vitality to a dull complexion.”
Massage Can Help Reduce PMS Symptoms
Massage can decrease bloating, mood swings and other PMS symptoms according to a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Miami Medical School. Results of the study indicated that women receiving massage therapy experienced a decrease in anxiety and depression, a reduction in water retention and perceived pain, and an overall reduction in PMS symptoms.
The health and wellness benefits of touch therapy are well established and its growing acceptance among health care professionals adds further evidence of its value in healing, pain reduction and easing of depression symptoms. As a result of these benefits, more people are turning to massage therapy as both a preventative and therapeutic option as part of their overall wellness strategy, and for those who have gained relief from physical and emotional health conditions the cost of a massage is no longer just a luxury.