Touch - The mother of all senses
In her book 'Touch' Stephanie Field describes touch as 'the mother of all senses' and emphasises how it affects our growth, health and well-being throughout our lives. She explains how the horrendous conditions in the Romanian orphanages, which were discovered in 1989, resulted in the children's growth being dramatically stunted. The lack of nutrition but also an absence of human contact was extremely damaging to the children's mental and physical development. Their treatment was to receive regular nutrition, medical help and regular touch, partly in the form of massage therapy, to help stimulate their growth and development. With the help of the touch therapy the children's condition improved dramatically, demonstrating its importance to human physical and emotional development.
In recent years research has also been carried out exploring benefits of touch and massage therapy
The effects of massage on preterm babies
The effects of massage on preterm babies were studied by Neena Modi. The study concluded that 'Massage therapy has led to weight gain in preterm infants when moderate pressure massage was provided.'
The benefits of massage for pregnant women
The benefits of massage for adults
Many of the people who come to me for massage therapy have reported back how it has affected them positively, for example helping their sleep, reducing muscle pain, leg cramps, headaches and fluid retention. The Touch Research Institute is one of the places who is researching the effects of massage on adults and is trying to establish proof that massage can help.
A TRI study into the effects of regular massage on adults with Multiple Sclerosis found 'The massage group had lower anxiety and less depressed mood immediately following the massage sessions and, by the end of the study, they had improved self-esteem, better body image and image of disease progression and enhanced social functional status.' Further research into the benefits of massage for adults has been collated by the AMTA and can be found here.
Touch is the social sense, it helps people feel nurtured and connected to others. Hand and foot massage are proving to be a very beneficial addition to the care of the elderly and for people with dementia. Both are non-intrusive and help to relax, reduce stress and help 'to communicate support and comfort' to the patient.
Research into the effects of massage throughout life
Unfortunately, many of the research studies that have been carried out are small and many suggest further investigation would be useful. Research is expensive and unlike pharmaceutical research, there is not a lot of money invested in finding out the benefits of massage. There is some evidence that massage can benefit preterm babies, pregnant women, people with dementia, depression, anxiety, stress, sleep problems, fibromyalgia, MS, osteoarthritis, inflammation after exercise, people in pain and more. Recently I posted a news article on Facebook which reported how three-quarters of adults in Britain had felt overwhelmed by stress. The article then listed the shocking 'wear and tear' damage that this stress could do to the body. I really hope more studies are undertaken to help people see that massage is not just for relaxation and something that is lovely to have only once a year. It can be beneficial throughout life in so many ways. It is supporting, preventative, beneficial, nurturing, building, improving, restorative and soothing, as well as lovely and relaxing and really needs to be received regularly.
Massage is also ancient, it has certainly stood the test of time. There is an increasing evidence base into the benefits of regular massage for people of all ages. There is also a growing number of people who have experienced massage and have felt the wonderful benefits of massage for themselves and they do not need the research to know it good for them. So please don't wait for the research to find out, just book a massage and see what it can do for you.
Have you felt the benefits of massage? Please let me know what they are in the comments below.
I am Holistic massage therapist providing massage for women's health and well-being from my home in Bristol.
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