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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Relax with Zen Massage This Fall

Do your joints hurt when a storm is coming?

You can thank changes in barometric pressure for that. Though our joints aren’t the only part of our bodies affected by the weather. Changes in weather cause physiological changes in our bodies. This is one of the several reasons why you should consider getting a massage @ZenMassage this fall.

Support Your Immune System

Feeling a bit under the weather? Many of us experience a weakened immune system when the seasons turn from summer to fall. This is because the drop in temperature makes our bodies rebalance faster than usual. Massage supports a healthy immune system, which helps protect us from seasonal illnesses. According to a study, massage therapy increases the number of killer cells that your body naturally produces and uses as its first line of defense against sickness. It does this by stimulating your lymph nodes to remove harmful bacteria, toxins, and waste. Massage may even help get you over a cold.

Promote Healing

Summer fun can take its toll on your body. Hiking, running and swimming all give you the exercise you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even going on vacation with the family can be exercise. Although too much exercise can cause dehydration over time. After all the activities you participated in during the summer, it’s important to allow your body to recover. Massage helps this healing process along.

Feel More Energetic

Cold temperatures and short days come with the changing of leaves, making us less inclined to spend time outdoors or be active. But by continuing to exercise and participate in sports, we can reduce the toll that winter takes on our levels of energy. Similarly, getting a massage increases the flow of blood and oxygen through our bodies. Making it easier for our circulatory systems to deliver nutrients where they’re needed, giving us an energy boost.

Improve Sleep

Cranky when you don’t sleep well? Poor sleep can lead to chronic conditions such as depression and cardiovascular disease. We know, it’s not always easy to get eight hours of sleep every night, particularly when our bodies are going through physiological transitions at the beginning of fall. Studies show that getting a massage increases serotonin levels, which helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Massage Seasonal Stress Away

With the physiological transitions, come the fall stresses of modern living: returning to school, extra lawn maintenance, preparation for the holidays. The rush and stress of fall can leave you vulnerable to illnesses that only a healthy immune system can fight. Massage therapy helps melt the stress away so that you can relax.

Massage helps relax tight painful muscles, improves range of motion in the joints, enhances circulation and lowers stress levels. Stress is considered a risk factor for many chronic diseases and can make symptoms worse. Feelings of stress that continue for long periods have a detrimental effect on the body. Massage helps you relax, calming the mind and body and relieving your stress.

The significant benefits of massage therapy on your body and mind are too great to ignore. Allow your body to recover and relax with a massage from Zen Massage Salt Lake City.

Renew your commitment to taking care of yourself with a massage @ZenMassageSaltLakeCity.