The Importance of Hands On Touch During a Hands Off Time | By Kaitlin Emig

Last Updated: December 4, 2020By

2020 marks a pivotal year for many business owners. However, in the business of touch therapy, this year provides even more opportunities to give health and relaxation in a safe environment. The purpose of massage therapy is to revitalize the nervous system; during a time of touch deprivation and an overstressed population, this service is greatly needed and beneficial to everyone.

According to a survey conducted this year by the Touch Research Institute, 60 percent of participants said they were touch deprived, which includes people living alone as well as living with others. Of these results,only 32 percent of the people living with others said they touched their partner a lot, and only 21 percent said they touched their kids a lot. Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute and a professor at University of Miami School of Medicine, commented on how the power of touch impacts our daily lives by preserving our emotional and physical health.

“When you move the skin, as in hugging, back rubbing, massage, yoga and simply walking, you stimulate pressure receptors under the skin that send messages to the vagus nerve in the brain,” Field says. As vagal activity increases, the nervous system slows down into a more relaxed state (slowed heart rate and increased theta waves in the brain). In turn, cortisol (the culprit stress hormone) is slowed, and serotonin increases (natural anti-depressant and anti-pain neurotransmitter).

Field’s research on the effects of touch started when working in a neonatal intensive care unit helping preterm newborns. Her team found through simple oral then physical touch stimulation the newborns gained 47 percent more weight and were discharged from the hospital earlier. Field believes in the benefits of positive touch through massage therapy stating it “enhances immune function and attentiveness, reduces pain and facilitates sleep.”

Samantha Sunshine, owner and lead massage therapist (LMT) of Sunshine Massage Studio in Vail, Colorado, can testify to the amazing health benefits of massage therapy. She continues to operate with new safety procedures because she sees that touch is the fastest way to activate and rebalance the nervous system.

Sunshine Massage Studio

Courtesy Sunshine Massage Studio

“Now, a lot of people want to know other ways to heal their body. Skin is the direct receptor for the nervous system. When stimulated, it heals and rebalances the right and left sides of the brain,” she explains.

At Sunshine Massage Studio, massage therapists greet each client with a statement of gratitude and well-being to thank them for taking the time to heal their body.

“We help guide the patient’s mind in rebalancing and feeling better through sound healing, positive affirmations and deep stretching,” Sunshine says. The studio offers a variety of massage and stretching options including Thai Massage, AcroSage™ and Four Handed Massage.

Megan Kingsbury, owner and LMT at Body Therapeutics in Grand Junction, Colorado, says since their reopening, there’s been a measurable rise in the need for self-care.

Body Therapeutics

Courtesy Body Therapeutics

“Our attention has shifted inward, focusing more on what makes us happy and keeps us healthy,” she says.

The spa offers multiple massage options as well as float, halo (salt), oxygen, ozone and infrared therapies.

“Our massage therapists are staying busy and practicing with a high level of compassion and patience. Together, we will get through this and come out the other side healthier and more in tune,” Kingsbury adds.

Both Sunshine Massage Studio and Body Therapeutics have doubled or even tripled their cleaning routines to ensure everyone stays safe since massage therapy businesses could re-open in May. Both businesses took the re-opening time slowly to evaluate the best procedures and follow state guidelines. Each business has their COVID protocol listed on their website to inform clients before booking appointments and make their studio as clean as possible with increased mopping, washing of linens and wearing face masks.

Both Sunshine and Kingsbury have received positive and grateful feedback from their clients for providing a clean and safe space to receive healing touch during a time when hands off touch is more prevalent within our common society.

If receiving a massage is unavailable to you, but you still want to fight touch deprivation within your own home, Field recommends giving back rubs, hugs and stretching as a household because all of those activities stimulate pressure receptors under the skin.

Lastly, massage therapist offer home self-care activities to produce the same effects as getting a massage such as using a massage ball, foam roller, facials or a foot massage. Sunshine recommends focusing on deep chest breathing to bring in more oxygen and white blood cells.

Kingsbury added, “Even though it’s getting colder, staying in touch with nature is so beneficial to a person’s wellbeing — a quick walk and a bit of sun can make all the difference in your day.”

Kaitlin Emig seeks adventure through mindful travel and outdoor pursuits. Her first oversees traveling experience as a teenager opened her worldview to everything beyond the rainbow. Growing up in Kansas and studying English and Writing in Iowa, she was far from the mountains that truly called her. Once moving to Colorado to teach skiing and yoga, she felt in her element. Adventure still beckoned however and for the last three years she’s lived in New Zealand and British Columbia. Her goals of freelance writing to share her outdoor pursuits has led her to an internship with Jaunt Media Collective.

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