Touch and massage

It is obvious that on a daily basis we are aware of the value of touch when our bodies are in pain or discomfort.  It is natural, for example to press on a part of the body when it hurts, or to rub our eyes when they are irritated. Aching shoulders often benefit from putting pressure on them to release tension, and when we have a headache we press on the area of pain with our hands for momentary relief.

Touch, as one of the 5 senses involves the skin, and it is fascinating to know that we live inside an outer casing of 18 square feet of skin, each inch of which is equipped with thousands of nerve endings and sensory receptors that keep the brain informed of the physical world we are in contact with.  

It is well known that massage and relaxation go together but why? What is it about an hour's bodywork session, even when focused on pain relief or structural alignment, that creates such a sense of well being, calm and energy?  Why as humans do we crave the touch of others?

Well, we know that infants who are deprived of touch, even when getting adequate nutrition do not thrive healthily.  Even pets are calmed by stroking them and we greet each other with a hug or a hand shake.  No other form of connection is as universal and profound as touch.

Massage makes use of many different techniques of touch in order to ease pain, reduce inflammation, or soothe the body through the touch on the skin.  It is known that massage decreases cortisol, the stress hormone, and accentuates  wellbeing, through the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.