{GUEST COLUMN} Health & Wellness: Human touch can be a powerful tool for healing

By Julie Drake
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | Have you ever pondered the meaning of the phrase it was touching? We use it to describe intensely emotional, heart-warming and meaningful events or situations. Why the word “touch”? Why add a tactile descriptor to a phrase? Touch implies compassion and care.
Touch is a powerful sense for both the person touching, and the person receiving touch. An entire branch of science is devoted to haptics, which is the study of touch and tactile feedback. Also, the research is rich around how receiving touch impacts health.
I have heard far too many stories of patients receiving care from a health care professional that never took the time to actually touch them. The patient felt like just a data point, a number, a vital sign. The simple act of a health care professional touching the patient transforms the interaction from delivering treatment to healthCARE. With touch comes trust.
Beyond demonstrating “care,” touch can tell us the texture, density, pliability and temperature of a surface. Massage therapists, specifically, are highly trained professionals who earn a living based on touch.
For years massage therapy was thought of as only for the wealthy. Massage is now known as more than something one does for fun on vacation, but rather dramatically helpful for people living with various health conditions. Massage is helpful in reducing most types of pain, reduces anxiety and depression calms a person in distress and can even help with digestion, circulation and lymph system function.
When the stress hormone cortisol was measured before and immediately after a massage, researchers from the University of Miami, School of Medicine have found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53 percent. Industry research continues to point toward massage therapy as an effective approach to positively affect the body’s biochemistry in order to treat mental and physical ailments, as well as complement traditional medical treatments
Mental illness still has a stigma and many people do not access care. They in turn self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs. What if they chose to medicate with massage instead? Massage is cheaper, healthier and much more effective. Most massage therapists I know are willing to work with people on prices and schedules.

Julie Drake

Julie Drake is the Rio Blanco County Director of Public Health.