Health Benefits of Physical Touch
friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that when she and her
husband first married, one of the activities she enjoyed most was
having him rub her feet in the evenings while they chatted about their
day. She really loved feeling the warmth of his hands and the pressure
on her skin, as well as spending the time with him. She enjoyed this
activity to the point where, when she’d see him in the evenings, she
would clear her throat and wiggle her toes at him as a way of asking
for another foot massage.
My friend lamented that, in recent weeks, due to an increase in the
busyness in their days, she and her husband haven’t had the time or
energy to spend as much leisure time together. As a result, she hasn’t
been getting any foot rubs. She stated she’s been feeling a bit grumpy
and she thinks part of it has to do with the absence of these regular
Perhaps you think this is a silly claim, that the absence of regular
touch can have an effect on one’s emotions. However, touch and the
social contact with a loved one which accompanies it are an important
part of our physical and emotional health.
Consider the following:
contact between mother and infant has been shown to benefit the
baby’s physical development and contributes to a positive attachment
relationship between the two. The practice of placing a diaper-clad
infant skin-to-skin on the mother is so beneficial that it is now
an intervention strategy for premature babies in neonatal intensive
care units worldwide.
group of Korean infants under the care of an orphanage were provided
with an extra 15 minutes of stimulation twice a day, 5 days a week,
for 4 weeks. The additional stimulation consisted of auditory (female
voice), tactile (massage), and visual (eye-to-eye contact). Compared
to the infants who only received regular care, the stimulated orphans
gained significantly more weight and had larger increases in body
length and head circumference after the 4 week intervention period,
as well as at 6 months of age. In addition, the stimulated infants
had fewer illnesses and clinic visits.
touch has been shown to facilitate physical and psychological functioning,
particularly in terms of reducing stress, relieving pain, increasing
the ability to cope, and general health ratings.
in a study examining the effectiveness of therapeutic touch as a
treatment for managing pain due to fibromyalgia experienced a significant
decrease in pain and reported a significant improvement in quality
majority of nursing home residents suffering from dementia like
Alzheimer’s disease develop behavioural symptoms of dementia, such
as restlessness, searching and wandering, tapping and banging, pacing
and walking, and vocalization. Current treatment involves drugs,
but a recent study showed that intervention consisting of therapeutic
touch significantly reduces these behavioural symptoms. Impressive
is that the therapeutic touch employed in the study was only provided
twice per day, for three days. Each therapeutic intervention lasted
only 5-7 minutes.
the importance of touch cannot be underestimated. Applying this knowledge
in your closest relationships can make all the difference with your
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Age Aches and Pains
Browne, J. (2004). Early relationship environments: physiology of
skin-to-skin contact for parents and their preterm infants. Clinics
In Perinatology, 31(2): 287-98.
Denison, B. (2004). Touch the pain away: new research on therapeutic
touch and persons with fibromyalgia syndrome. Holistic Nursing Practice,
Kim, T., Shin, Y., & White-Traut, R. (2003). Multisensory intervention
improves physical growth and illness rates in Korean orphaned newborn
infants. Research In Nursing And Health, 26(6): 424-33.
Weze, C., et al. (2005). Evaluation of healing by gentle touch. Public
Health, 119(1): 3-10.
Wood, D., Craven, R., & Whitney, J. (2005). The effect of therapeutic
touch on behavioral symptoms of persons with dementia. Alternative
Therapies In Health And Medicine, 11(1): 66-74.
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