How Our Bodies Register the Power of Touch

The Surprising Science Behind the Healing Power of Touch

By Anne Mullens with additional research by Jennifer Krissilas, Reader’s Digest Canada

It’s the sense that we most often take for granted—and one cannot live without. Check out the surprising science behind the healing power of touch.

How Our Bodies Register the Power of Touch

Of our five senses, touch is often the one we take for granted. Science has only begun to understand the highly complex system of nerves, sensors and receptors that link our skin and brain to our environment and the people around us.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about touch sensations,” says David J. Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and the author of 2015’s Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind. What we do know, he says, is that there are separate sensors for texture, vibration, pressure and itch.

One of the leading touch researchers in the world is Dr. Håkan Olausson, professor of clinical neuroscience at Linköping University in Sweden. He was part of a team that found special touch fibres, called C-tactile afferent fibres, which are responsible for regis­tering and transmitting to the brain the emotional meaning of gentle strokes and caresses. These nerves respond optimally when touched at around 32 C—the temperature of a human hand. “They are particularly sensitive to caresses but also respond to many other types of touch, such as pressing on the skin,” Olausson says.

When the CT fibres aren’t working properly, a gentle touch instead feels aversive and can undermine attempts to form emotional connections to others, says Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University in England. CT stimulation, when delivered through nurturing touch, impacts the neural networks in our brains that allow us to see ourselves as separate beings with needs that are different from others. Without this ability, individ­uals may be unable to read emotional cues, making it difficult for them to empathize. Research last year, led by McGlone, found that children on the autism spectrum may have a difference in the functioning of their CT fibres that causes them to find soft touch from others unpleasant.

For individuals whose CT fibres function normally, however, touch can bring a great amount of bene­fit, McGlone says. Gentle contact can reinforce social relationships, communicate positive feelings, and even make us more capable of dealing with stress.

 

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Men, Women & Massage

Everybody needs a massage, but men and women tend to get massages for different reasons.

Massage is a truly natural form of therapy that can address and relieve symptoms of all sorts of health complications.

While self-care is the main reason for massage, there are many other benefits that come along for men and women.  

Men often don’t get massages as frequently as they should. Here are some reasons men should be getting a massage on a regular basis.

  • Workout recovery
  • Mood Boost
  • Fewer gray hairs
  • Cure desk stiffness
  • Be comfortable in your own skin
  • Improved flexibility
  • Better sleep
  • Cardiovascular wellness
  • Manage back pain

Gentlemen, what are you waiting for? Book your Zen Massage today.

Women tend to think about getting a massage as pampering – like it’s some kind of indulgent luxury. Massage is a service that focuses on you. It gives you time to relax and let the stress melt away. You and your masseur work together to identify the areas where your stress hides, relieving you of physical pain and clearing your mind so you can tackle any task.

More than anything, women report feeling revitalized after a massage. If that’s not enough, here are the top reasons women should be getting massages regularly. 

  • Manage Stress
  • Make You Look Younger
  • Reduced Use of Painkillers
  • After Pregnancy Massage
  • Increased Energy Levels
  • Boost Your Immune System
  • Relieve Anxiety and Depression

Think about what your body does when you are down in the dumps. You might feel achy and weak, your shoulders droop, you drag your feet and you slump over. Massage experts call this a “structural collapse” that happens when we feel depressed.

Massage tends to address many symptoms that are a result of anxiety or depression. It may help to lower blood pressure levels, alleviate tough headaches, improve breathing, settle your nerves and more.

Makeup artist Gucci Westman told the Wall Street Journal that she often gives fashion models facial massages before they walk down the runway. “For early morning shows when everyone’s puffy and not quite awake, facial massage is like coffee for the skin. Everything comes to life.” 

Ladies, what are you waiting for? Book your Zen Massage today.

 

These benefits are only the beginning of what massage can do for your body and your life.

What benefits do you know about?

What have you experienced as a result of massage?

 

Book Your ZEN Massage in SLC today!

(801) 467-3529

5520 South Van Winkle Expy

Salt Lake City, UT 84117

Massaging the Psoas

How Massage Therapists Treat Psoas

The psoas is a deep-seated core muscle connecting the lumbar vertebrae to the femur. The psoas major is the biggest and strongest player in a group of muscles called the hip flexors: together they contract to pull the thigh and the torso toward each other.

It is one of the more sensitive areas a Massage Therapist can treat. Getting in and working on the psoas is a skill in itself. It takes practice and some clear communication with your patient.

I want to share a technique that is as useful as it is uncomfortable, this is the way I used to do it.

The psoas has spinal attachments and is more than just a hip flexor. Some studies think it functions as a stabilizer. Since it attaches to the spine, the only way to release it manually is to go DEEP.

This technique will help:

  • Female runners with SI problems (lack of hip extension causing SI and lumbar hypermobility, plus inhibition of hip abductor/extensors)
  • Older patients with stenosis (lack of hip extension causes lumbar hyperextension, further closing the stenosis)
  • Hip capsular patterns – will improve hip external rotation
  • Posteriorly rotated ilium
  • Pt’s with diffuse anterolateral thigh complaints from compression of femoral nerve
  • Pt’s with spondylolisthesis may help in conjunction with soft tissue work to the paraspinals.
  • And a stabilization program

Your patient should lay supine with knees and hips flexed. Use an even finger grip, both 3rd and 4th fingertips with your elbows flared out so that your fingertips have even contact. Start about 2-3″ laterally to the umbilicus and slowly move from superficial to deep until you can’t move any further.

The abdominal contents will move out of the way. If you move too quickly, you will activate the rectus abdominus and the contraction will push you out.

How do you know you’re on it?

Here are two signs to make sure:

  • It’s not pulsing, if it is, go more lateral as you’re on the descending aorta!
  • Ask the patient to slightly flex their hip; as soon as they do, you should feel it contract under your fingertips

Start with oscillations, and you can progress to functional release movements starting with heelslide (you push proximally as patient slides heel distally), ipsilateral upper extremity elevation, combination upper extremity elevation and heelslide, then anterior pelvic tilts.

The last is the most uncomfortable, and maybe even the first time you can get a patient to posteriorly pelvic tilt correctly, as they want to move away from your hands! Perform for 5-7 minutes or until you feel a change. Reassess function, ROM, special test, or however you came to the conclusion the patient had a restricted psoas to begin with.

Techniques For Massage Therapists To Work Psoas Pain Free

Let’s be clear, you are nowhere near the psoas when doing a release, but this is the new way I do it.

I am just targeting the area around and above, and am very general to release lower quarter tone anteriorly, that’s about it.

Why you should use this

  • it doesn’t hurt
  • it rapidly improves hip and lumbar motion
    • if a patient needs sidegliding in standing for an ipsilateral lower quadrant issue, but is unable to move without discomfort

Patient:

  • supine, in hooklying
  • at least the involved lower extremity needs to be bent at the hip and knee

MT:

  • standing on the involved side
  • use either the pads of digits 3-4 of both hands or even easier, an EDGE Mobility Ball (any ball will do)
  • assess resistance to superficial to deep pressure lateral to the umbilicus on one side versus the other
  • the side with increased resistance is the side you should treat

Technique:

  • lightly apply superficial to deep pressure, it SHOULD NOT cause any pain
  • at the point of resistance that is highest, have the patient complete 3-5 diaphragmatic breaths
  • make sure they exhale fully
  • the exhalation will help reduce tone autonomically

re-test the limited hip and/or lumbar motion.

As it is with so many other techniques in Massage Therapy communication and consent is key. Make sure when attempting this treatment that if you feel the pulse, you move off of it quickly as you do not want to compress the descending aorta. Whether you’re helping someone with stenosis, spondylolisthesis or just SI issues treating the psoas can give you and your patients greater success in treatment. 

Source: MTDC

 

Book Your Massage in SLC today!

(801) 467-3529

5520 South Van Winkle Expy
Salt Lake City, UT 84117

Stretching Is Essential | Zen Massage

Stretching Is Essential

Body Basics

Have you ever seen a cat get up and start moving without stretching? 

If you’ve ever watched a cat you’ll have noticed each time they begin to move they stretch! They listen to their bodies! With busy daily life, we humans tend to ignore our most basic needs.

When we don’t stretch regularly, we overuse, fatigue, shorten and tighten our muscles and the connecting tissues. This leads to decreased circulation, reduced flexibility, and an increased risk of injury or disease. 

Tune-in to what your body is trying to tell you! Notice that compelling feeling to stretch when you wake up? And again, at the end of the day when you’re tired? That is nature’s way of telling you that you need to move! Move more oxygen around your body . . . And yet a lot of us spend our days sitting at our desks barely moving.

Staying flexible as we get older is something we can all work towards. After all, loss of mobility is a slow process that creeps up on you. Many of us don’t recognize it’s happening until our bodies become imbalanced, compensation sets in, and we begin to suffer pain and discomfort.

NOW is the time to start helping your body perform as it was designed to so that it can continue to perform over time. After all, stretching is a workout in itself!

Daily Stretching Benefits

Stretching techniques can take as little as 10 minutes, but provide a multiple of benefits, including:

  • Improved posture, circulation, and range of motion
  • Accelerated recovery from injury
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Relief from muscle soreness, strains, or spasms
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Enhanced ability to relax
  • Balance promoted throughout the body

Proper Stretching Technique

It is essential to practice proper stretching techniques.

  • Warm up first
  • Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds
  • Don’t bounce
  • Focus on a pain-free stretch
  • Relax and breathe freely
  • Stretch both sides
  • Stretch before and after activity

Here are a few good stretches to try:

Be sure to check in with your physical therapist before starting any stretching program. 

Stretching regularly can help your body and joints move more freely, allowing you to enjoy full functional mobility.

Add a Zen Massage

Stretching is wonderfully beneficial for your body, but add in a massage once or twice a month and your body will be thanking you well into your old age!

Book your Massage online @ ZenMassage.net

Or call  (801) 467-3529

Zen Massage | Luxury Massage in Salt Lake City, Utah

5520 South Van Winkle Expy

Salt Lake City, UT 84117

Why We All Need to Touch and Be Touched

Why We All Need to Touch and Be Touched

Our mind, brain, and body are not separate from each other.

Sharon K. Farber Ph.D. | The Mind-Body Connection

Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction, and increasingly, many people are seeking out their own “professional touchers” and body arts teachers– chiropractors, physical therapists, Gestalt therapists, Rolfers, the Alexander-technique and Feldenkrais people, massage therapists, martial arts and T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructors. And some even wait in physicians’ offices for a physical examination for ailments that have no organic cause—they wait to be touched.

The body-oriented approaches are based on a principle that is becoming more obvious to researchers. Ken Wilbur wrote in The Spectrum of Consciousness , “For every mental ‘problem’ or ‘knot’, there is a corresponding bodily ‘knot’, and vice versa since, in fact, the body and the mind are not two. That is, psychic conflict, guilt, shame, unresolved grief all can be lodged in the body as body memories, and when the site of the psychic difficulty is deeply touched through massage or other manipulation, it can not only release the physical pain but may make the psychic pain accessible.

Soon after my mother died I developed a case of “frozen shoulder”. It causes stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint and often occurs for no known reason. My doctor had told me that because my shoulder was “frozen”, there must be adhesions, or scar tissue that were freezing up my shoulder joint. And probably my body lacked something called synovial fluid, needed to lubricate the shoulder joint. I asked him what. He could not tell me what caused this to happen because medicine does not really understand why. I like to understand why things happen the way they do and he could not tell me. But I was in pain. I could not sleep in the usual position I sleep in, I couldn’t reach for something on a shelf without feeling pain. He referred me for physical therapy and so I made an appointment.

As I lay on the examining table, the physical therapist came in, smiled, introduced herself and explained what she was going to do. As soon as she put her warm hands on my bare shoulder, tears welled up in my eyes. I was surprised and embarrassed and turned my head away from her gaze so that she would not see. I suspect she noticed. She continued examining me and I relaxed and found that I enjoyed it. It felt like a massage, something I am not used to having. She recommended that I come in three times a week and I had to arrange my schedule to do that. She did various exercises with me that I was advised to do at home. As I followed her instructions, I thought and felt a great deal about my mother, with whom I had a complex and ambivalent relationship. I stretched and cried, cried and stretched, wrote about what I was feeling, and after a few months I was better. The pain of my loss had lodged itself in my body, and a woman’s warm touch started to release it. It also probably released some oxytocin in me, the hormone of love and attachment. As I mourned her loss over several months, I realized something. I had had a hard time crying for my mother, whom I loved very much but whom I was angry with too. When there are difficulties in mourning a loss, somatic or psychological difficulties may present themselves. The body speaks when we do not have words for what we are feeling. The therapist’s warm touch on my shoulder was lubrication for my soul, needed for me to let go and feel the loss, complicated and ambivalent as it was.

Treatment that uses direct touch can have a depth and potency that can have a great therapeutic impact, which provides some explanation for why so many people are seeking out their own “professional touchers” or are filling the waiting rooms of physicians, waiting for the doctor to find the cause of the pain and make them better. In the process, they are touched. When the patient is assured that the work of the professional toucher is free from infringement, that sexual contact is clearly out of bounds, and that the patient can say “no” to any intervention the body-work practioner proposes, then the patient can have the experience of trust and physical touch in the context of a controlled respectful relationship.

Nature is so intelligent for creating oxytocin, the hormone of love and attachment. Kerstin Uvnas Moberg became a world authority on ocytocin through her personal experience. When she was pregnant, delivered, and nursed her four children, she was struck by feeling a state of mind so different from the stress she was used to in connection with life’s other challenges. Wanting to understand this scientifically, she learned that there is a key biological marker—oxytocin—that can explain this sense of calm and connectedness in pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing, and through this research, discovered that oxytocin is able to influence many vital operations in the body. Her research showed that the level of oxytocin in the blood during nursing was correlated with the mothers’ subjective experiences of calmness, and ability to interact with their babies. Oxytocin stimulates growth during pregnancy and stimulates the uterus to expel the newborn It restores the balance between stress and calm It stimulates the muscle activity of orgasm (in both men and women) and can strengthen the attachment bond. We are told that “oxytocin is with us throughout our lives.” She wrote that

When you were born, oxytocin helped expel you from your mother’s womb and made it possible for her to nurse you..As a small child, you enjoyed your mother’s and father’s loving touch because it released oxytocin in your body. As an adult, you experience the effects of oxytocin when you enjoy good food, or a massage, or an intimate interlude with your romantic partner (Uvnas Moberg 2003, p. 65).

If you’d like to learn more about oxytocin, read Uvnas Moberg’s book The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing.

When people lack love and touch in their lives this can result in bodily self harm, such as in eating disorders or self-mutilation. If you’d like to learn more about this and about “professional touchers” , read my book, When the Body Is the Target: Self-Harm, Pain, and Traumatic Attachments.

Source : Psychology Today

The Psychological Benefits of Touch

Massage - Touch

Massage

is often thought of as a way to relax and unwind – And it is! But did you know there is a vital psychological component to massage as well? Touch is one of the most important cues human beings need to be able to form relationships, cooperate with one another and be healthier, too.

Touch is often overlooked and under-appreciated in our society. Many people are spread out and they remain in their homes more than before, communicating via smartphones and computer screens, instead of having face to face conversations and being close to one another. There is an emphasis for people to have a wide berth of personal space and not touch anyone else. But science is proving that human beings need touch more than they think. In fact, it seems to be imperative to good emotional and physical well-being.

The sad conditions of Romania’s orphanages from the 1960’s to the 1980’s is an example of how bad things can get when babies and infants are not held. During those years, contraception became restricted, abortions were outlawed and childless couples were taxed, in hopes of boosting the population, but over one hundred thousand children ended up in understaffed state run institutions because they could not be cared for. There was one nurse to over 20 infants and as a result, these infants did not get touched often. The psychological effects were astounding. They were void of expression, could not form bonds with others, and had issues so severe that many of them remain in institutions as adults.

When infants are touched often, it increases oxytocin levels in the brain and also seems to activate growth, attachment and response. When infants are not touched, the results are usually disastrous. They do not perform well cognitively, they do not form relationships and they are oftentimes disturbed. But it’s not just infants. When adults who are otherwise of sound mind and body get put into isolation, they quickly unravel and become disoriented, agitated and prone to hallucinations. We need human contact to be mentally healthy.

Where does touch come into all of this? One might think, sure we need some friends but why the emphasis on touch, specifically? Because scientific studies have parsed out touch versus socialization and discovered touch may be more important to well-being than socializing, alone.

For instance, When 20 premature infants were transferred to a normal care nursery, they were given ten minutes of touch therapy and stimulation three times a day. Compared to the other babies, they gained 47% more weight per day and scored higher on alertness and motor coordination tests. They were tested at eight months and twelve months, as well, and the benefits were still apparent. [1]

Infants aren’t the only ones who benefit from touch. When adolescent HIV patients were given massage therapy with their treatment, they reported less anxiety and depression, but also had an increased white blood cell count and immune response, compared to the ones who did not receive massage. [2] Some studies suggest the simple act of hugging other people can boost our own immune response. [3] Because of this, touch is starting to gain traction in nurseries and with the elderly, who are less sick and depressed if they receive massage. In fact, some programs pair elderly people with orphaned babies, for cuddle sessions and care, to their mutual benefit.

Human beings are social creatures. We depend on one another and need close relationships more than many of us would like to admit. Even more so, we need intrapersonal touch. Perhaps not everyone has a circle of friends, family, and lovers to fill that need. Long days at work, relocations, and digital communication seem to be pulling us all away from the tighter, tribal circles we once had. But this doesn’t have to be the way we live. Reach out and touch the people around you, visit people who may be lonely, volunteer to cradle infants, or get a massage on a regular basis. Studies show it will make you happier, healthier, and smarter.

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