Touch and massage as therapy

Touch and massage are much more than just a feel-good way to be nice to people and pamper yourself. There is a body of research that shows they can achieve personal and health benefits.

Touch can be provided in different ways, such as a hand placed on the shoulder, reassuring pat on the back or a hug. The benefits include people shop and buy more when touched by staff who greet them at the door, strangers are more likely to help someone if touch accompanies a request and improved performance at work or in a team.

There are many types of massage provided as forms of treatment. They vary in terms of the amounts of pressure that can be applied to the skin, from light to heavy and also the associated reasoning behind them, such as Shiatsu, where the touch relates to energy flow.

Research shows that people with specific medical conditions can be helped with massage including;

* premature babies
* older-aged people with dementia (loss of memory)
* people with anxiety, depression, chronic pain
* immune system conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

How the benefits of touch and massage are achieved is still not fully understood. Massage for premature babies, for example, is believed to help with weight gain, by increasing metabolism and reducing stress. It’s also suggested that stress reduction may increase positive hormones such as oxytocin, the hormone that promotes bonding and improves mood.

What to do?

Speak to your GP, particularly to make sure massage is recommended for your specific condition and to help find a suitable massage therapist. But at the same time, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the initiative to incorporate touch such as a pat on the shoulder in casual or work situations. Just make sure you assess beforehand whether the touch is appropriate and will be welcomed.

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This post is part of the Southgate Medical Centre healthy lifestyles initiative for the Southbank community.