The Power of Touch

Touch is the very first sense humans acquire. It develops in simple form in the womb, well before birth. Newborns are born with sight, but initially focus at 8-12 inches from their face. Newborns can hear, even in the womb, and initially respond mostly to high-pitched exaggerated sounds and voices. Newborns can taste and smell at birth, with a preference toward sweetness and pleasant smells.

Newborns love skin-to-skin contact. Newborns who share bare-chested snuggles with their moms (sometimes called “kangaroo care”) may breathe better, cry less, and breastfeed longer.
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, 2012

As it is with newborns, our sense of touch remains very important as we grow. We learn about our surroundings and learn to associate touch with sense memory–things like the warmth of a blanket, a cool breeze, comforting hugs, and loving caresses. With almost every touch you learn more about life.

Western cultures, sadly, are pretty touch-deprived and this is especially true of the US. Psychologist Sidney Jourard (1960s) studied conversations between friends in a cafe in different parts of the world. He watched conversations for an hour and noted touch interactions. In England, the two friends touched zero times.  In the US, twice–mostly associated with an emphatic or enthusiastic moment in the conversation. But in France, the number dramatically increased to 110 times per hour. In Puerto Rico, friends touched each other 180 times. Cultural norms dictate public touch behavior along with each individual’s sense of personal space. In general, though, people feel more connected (“closer”) when nonverbal communication, like touch, is involved in a conversation.

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Relieving Lower Back Pain

lowbackblogIn any given year, one in 10 (10%) of men and women in the US experience lower back pain. Some just deal with it, others are more proactive.

Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people seek medical attention in the U.S., and it is notoriously tough to treat. Most lower back pain comes from injury or overuse of muscles, ligaments and joints. Less common are pressure on nerve roots, compression fractures and infections.

Studies show very few medical therapies, from medications to injections to surgeries, reliably relieve it, and some can aggravate the problem. A new study randomly assigned 400 adults with moderate-to-severe low back pain lasting for at least three months to either weekly whole-body massages for relaxation, weekly massages that focused on specific muscle problems around the lower back and hips, or usual care (“control group”). Continue reading “Relieving Lower Back Pain”

Making RICE for Sprains, Aches & Pains

peas_kneesR.I.C.E. is an acronym referring to a method for handling sprains, strains, or other soft tissue injuries. The elements of RICE – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate – are mostly common sense, but there are some specific tips that help make each of these more effective.  We commonly recommend RICE treatments along with a massage therapy treatment for aftercare, preventative therapy, and to speed healing and recovery after an injury.   Here’s the scoop…

R (Rest): Chill out, especially the first 24-48 hours after an injury. Rest the body part and give the muscle tissues a chance to begin healing. You might think that “walking it off” makes sense, but it doesn’t.  Many injuries result from micro or macro tears in muscle and fascial tissues, or inflammation of joints, tendons, and ligaments.  ALL of those body parts benefit from a little time to recover before they’re put to use again.

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Massage and Endorphins

endorphinsMassage stimulates your body to release endorphins and with that release comes wide-ranging, positive effects.

Endorphins are natural chemicals in the brain that have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. Besides behaving as a pain regulator, endorphins are also thought to be connected to physiological processes including euphoria, appetite modulation, and the release of sex hormones.

Endorphin research suggests that there is a link between emotions and a healthy immune system. So pleasant memories, exercise, sexual activity, laughter, and even pursuing dangerous activity are all ways we can increase our levels of endorphins and benefit from our own natural chemicals. Continue reading “Massage and Endorphins”