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the importance of touch as part of your therapy and healing process


Thirty five years ago Rick Springfield was singing about the future — the year 2016 to be exact (you’ll have to watch the music video to remember this fact). The soap opera star turned musician (or maybe prophet) sang, “Everybody’s talking to computers, they’re all dancing to a drum machine.  I know I’m living on the outside… so cool, calculated, and alone in the modern world….”  The song was called Human Touch, and has a catchy, although somewhat monotonous, chorus —- “We all need it, the human touch” repeat, repeat, repeat.   

Rick’s point was simple — we all need human touch.  And if you cruise on over to PubMed — the massive database containing millions of archived scientific studies — it’s not hard to see that large numbers of really smart people with lots of fancy degrees agree with his assessment.

There are tons of studies on Human Touch (various forms of therapeutic touch and BIO-ENERGETIC HEALING — we’re not just talking CHIROPRACTIC or massage therapy here), showing its positive effects on almost every conceivable health condition, including cancer, chronic pain, dementia, and a host of others, including preemies. 

Although there have been hundreds of studies on the subject since then, a team of researchers from UCLA published a review in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine called Biofield Therapies: Helpful or Full of Hype? A Best Evidence Synthesis, that proved Springfield’s assertion.  After looking at almost 70 studies on the subject, the authors concluded…..

Biofield therapies (such as Reiki, therapeutic touch, and healing touch) are complementary medicine modalities that remain controversial and are utilized by a significant number of patients, with little information regarding their efficacy.  Studies overall are of medium quality, and generally meet minimum standards for validity of inferences. Biofield therapies show strong evidence for reducing pain intensity in pain populations, and moderate evidence for reducing pain intensity hospitalized and cancer populations.

There is moderate evidence for decreasing negative behavioral symptoms in dementia and moderate evidence for decreasing anxiety for hospitalized populations. There is equivocal evidence for biofield therapies’ effects on fatigue and quality of life for cancer patients, as well as for comprehensive pain outcomes and affect in pain patients, and for decreasing anxiety in cardiovascular patients.

While not perfect, it’s pretty darn good — and the cost is a fraction of standard therapies such as CHEMOTHERAPY or PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS. That same year, a group of neuroscientists published a study in the Journal of Cell Biology called The Cell Biology of Touch.  Of course they discussed things like the importance of PROPRIOCEPTION (or HERE), MECHANOTRANSDUCTION, as well as the problems that occur when a person’s sensory system goes array (CENTRAL SENSITIZATION is one such example). 

Among other things, they stated that, “Touch is a complex sense comprising a diversity of modalities, and we have just begun to glimpse the underlying cellular principles. Common themes have emerged from histological, physiological, and behavioral studies of genetically tractable organisms.”  While all of this is certainly cool to know and necessary to understand, it doesn’t really explain this phenomenon on a “Human Touch” sort of level.

I bring all of this up because of an article I saw earlier this week in MedPage Today by Dr. Fred Pelzman (The Value of Human Touch: Technology Can Help Us, But it Can Never Replace Us).  In Pelzman’s article he talks about the MYRIAD OF TESTS that patients are run through in the never-ceasing quest for “brute data” required and held so dear by our government and insurance companies. 

He as much as admits that this part of medicine(the human part) is getting worse instead of better, and then urges his readers — those in the medical profession — to “see the bigger picture… Technology will never be human. We owe it to our patients to always keep that [Human Touch] in the care we provide them.”   Jolly well put Dr. P!  But here’s the rub.

Before ending with this uplifting admonishment, Dr. P spent a significant portion of his article talking about what the practice of medicine is increasingly becoming — technology-based.  And all the while it’s becoming less personal (as well as personable) and more corporate / profit-driven.  Couple it with the fact that the latest research tells us that physicians are spending, on average, 2 hours and 10 minutes of an eight hour day with patients (the rest of the time is spent on charting — aka “ADMINISTRATIVE DUTIES“), and you can see why doctors are, on the whole, SO BURNED OUT.  I bring this up for two reasons.

Firstly, if you have a doctor that does not care about you or love you as a patient, find another doctor.  Remember that love and touch have been shown by science to be healing entities that have real / tangible effects — effects that are bigger than EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE.  Secondly, realize that your health is up to you. 

No matter how much your doctor loves and cares about you, they can’t make you healthy — that is something that only you can do for yourself.  Consider it a Christmas gift, but I’ve given you (completely free) some ideas that some of you could use to get the ball rolling (with your doctor’s permission of course).  And even though it’s Christmas Day, why wait to start STRATEGIZING for the NEW YEAR?  

Lastly, let me show you a super cool example of the awesome power of Human Touch.  Back in 1995, twin girls (Kyrie and Brielle Jackson) were born three months prematurely, weighing less than two pounds apiece.  Although one was doing OK, the other was not.  Even though it was against hospital regulations, a gutsy nurse took it upon herself to put the unhealthy twin in with the healthy twin so that they could share the same incubator.  You can watch the amazing transformation below (can anyone say “thrive”?). 

The other video is of a baby who died brought back to life by two hours of mom’s touch.  Amazing stuff!  Now, hum along with me, We all need it, the human touch.  We all need it, the human touch.  We all need it, the human touch.  We all need it, the human touch (HERE)!


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