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The Need for Nurturing Touch

Human beings and other mammals are hardwired to be watchful for threatening situations. A part of our subconscious brain is always asking and answering the question ‘Am I safe?’ This is healthy, as long as we are able to recover from stress as readily as we respond to it. For many people this is not an easy task. It turns out that one of the most important variables in stress management and resilience is something over which we have no control—how much we were touched as young children as well as the quality of the connection with our main caregiver.

The need for abundant, nurturing touch in early life is well-established. While it is impossible to conduct studies on human babies, the tragedy of neglected infants is not hard to document. The effects of touch deprivation in adults are not as well understood. However, one population reveals some important clues: elderly adults who live in isolation without a partner or a community get sicker, make more visits to the doctor, and die younger than their counterparts. The need for touch and connection doesn’t stop when we exit childhood, but the effects of touch deprivation and absence of caring relationships among adults can be passed over or categorized as other problems, including stress-related diseases.

In our culture, touch is often in short supply. Our only appropriate contexts for nonsexual touch (outside of parent-child relationships) are in sports, greetings, healthcare, and professional grooming. What do adults do, then, when we need physical connection? We often don’t even identify the need as such. We misinterpret it as sexual desire, hunger, restlessness, or frustration. We try to satisfy our need for touch in many ways; some are more successful than others. This is part of the reason that massage therapy—educated, safe, professional touch—has found such a niche in American culture and is being incorporated into medical treatments!

Getting regular bodywork helps meet the need for nurturing, aware touch and influences the overall health of the human body in many positive ways. Expert massage at Massage Therapy Center Palo Alto will encourage all your body systems to deeply relax—reducing tension, anxiety, and moving you into a parasympathetic state, where healing happens. It will improve blood circulation that delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removes stress-related chemicals, as well as increase lymphatic flow to support a strong immune response.