Did You Know…
…touch therapy may help halt disease in addition to providing pain and anxiety relief?
Touch therapy, which includes healing modalities such as massage and reiki, is easing its way into mainstream medicine. It’s used as an adjunct to conventional treatments for stress, anxiety, and pain relief, and recent research suggests that healing touch may also help to slow disease progression. Clinical trials highlight touch therapy’s beneficial influence on conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, migraines, childhood diabetes, and weakened immunity.
Pain Palliative and Anxiety Reliever
The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine has conducted over 100 studies on the effects of touch therapy. Results show healing touch can help accelerate the development of premature babies, stabilize blood glucose levels in kids with diabetes, boost the immune systems of cancer patients, and help alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune disease.
Touch therapy is perhaps best known for its pain relief effects. Jim Coan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Virginia University, set out to discover how the brain reacts to touch during an intimidating experience. Coan scanned the brains of female test subjects while they were subjected to mild electric shock. When they touched their husbands’ hands, brain activity in sections of the brain that register fear, threat, and danger declined immediately. The touch of a stranger’s hand had a similar impact, though less pronounced.
Research from other prestigious universities validates the palliative effects of touch therapy. A small trial conducted by scientists at the Institute for Postgraduate Dental Education in Sweden showed touch therapy eased the pain of 8 out of 10 fibromyalgia patients. Research out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has shown that healing touch can help speed wound healing, promote relaxation and pain relief, and provide general comfort. And according to a Stanford University report, touch therapy has been proven effective for wound healing, anxiety, pain, and possible fracture healing and arthritis relief.
By slashing stress hormones, touch therapies such as massage have a demonstrated effect on stress, high blood pressure, and heart rate. Studies have shown that hugging your lover can lower your blood pressure. One study showed that young women who received the most hugs had the lowest blood pressure. The effect on heart rate is similar. University of North Carolina researchers showed that of 69 pre-menopausal women, those who got the most hugs had the lowest heart rates. Touch has also been shown to increase melatonin and serotonin levels, two hormones that regulate sleep, appetite, and mood.
Healing touch may also help halt disease progression. A 2010 study showed that touch therapy conserved immune function in cervical cancer patients during chemoradiation. All 60 patients received standard care for an average of 6 weeks of treatment, but some also received healing touch or relaxation therapy. Those who just received standard treatment or who received adjunct relaxation therapy showed a decline in natural killer cell activity. Natural killer cells help to strengthen the immune response to cervical cancer. The women who received healing touch on top of standard care, however, showed a significant increase in natural killer cell activity, which suggests that the benefits of touch therapy extend far beyond pain relief and into the arena of disease control.