News

  • Can’t Touch This: More Proof on the Healing Power of Touch

    As touch givers we are attuned to the countless benefits of touch, for some of us it may have even served as the very catalyst to us choosing this profession. We can also appreciate the deep impact that touch can have, like releasing a physical knot that was also mental or vice versa, resulting in emotional release for a client as they let go of the grief, sadness, anger or pain that they may of harbored for so long.

    In recent years, the science at last has started to catch up and a wave of evidence based studies has started to surface about the physical and physiological effects of touch and massage. Thanks to organizations like the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, we know that touch boosts growth in preterm newborns, calms the “stress beast” cortisol while increasing other feel good, pain relieving, love potion hormones like endorphins and oxytocin. It helps regulate key neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine helping us to not only sleep better, crave less but also feel more enthusiastic and joyful. From helping with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia, cancer symptoms and dementia, the touch benefit list just keeps getting longer.

    Some new areas that have recently come to light delve deeper into the specifics of how we touch…

    Vagus Baby!

    The skin, as we know, is a sensory organ and is laden with nerve receptors. These receptors receive messages about pressure, temperature, pain and are incredibly sensitive. When a receptor is stimulated, it sends a signal along the nerve cells directly to the brain. The brain then co-ordinates the response, like the contraction of a muscle or a gland releasing a hormone into the bloodstream.  Interestingly, the deeper “pressure” receptors in the skin called the Pacinian corpuscles’ send a signal directly to an important nerve bundle deep in the brain called the Vagus nerve. The Vagus links directly to the heart and it’s this nerve that then slows the heart down and decreases blood pressure.

    Touch tip: Use deeper pressure, slow massage strokes to quickly and deeply bring about stress relief, key for hypertensive, high blood pressure and generally stressed out clients.

    Different Strokes for Different Folks

    As pro’s we know that the method of massage we use can energize someone feeling sluggish or calm down an angry, anxious client. But why is that? Researchers found that a seated massage lasting 15 minutes increases the production of epinephrine by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This helps people become more alert, more attentive, and therefore more productive.  A slower, longer, deeper and more rhythmic technique has quite the opposite effect, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing epinephrine levels, allowing a sense of deep relaxation, and facilitating deep sleep.

    Touch tip: Offer Energizing 15-minute chair massage, hand and arm or foot reflexology sessions in the mornings or at lunchtimes to capture new clients. Great for jet lagged travelers, tired moms, young partiers and office workers alike! Take these services offsite to companies who offer well-being programs for their employees.

    Monkey Business

    A new discovery about the function of certain sensory nerve cells, known as C tactile (CT) afferents, that are only found in the hairy skin of humans and mammals, has recently emerged. These nerve cells fire more slowly and only become stimulated with gentle rhythmic stroking movements like caressing. When they are activated by this type of touch, they flood the body with feelings of pleasure and also evoke our sense of self and embodiment. Their behavior suggests that the desire of having one’s skin stroked represents an innate, natural act that’s linked to the importance of social interaction; much like our hairy primate friends that enjoy the act of social grooming and nit nibbling.

    Neuroscientists are hopeful that knowing more about these cells might help us to understand pain perception, body image distortions and certain neurodevelopmental disorders.  As a Skin Therapist, I’m happy to know that at last we have some real proof about what we have believed to be true for so long. So the next time your client tells you your hands are amazing, magical or even miracle workers, tell them that’s right because indeed they are!

    References:

    http://www.academia.edu/3570732/Massage_increases_oxytocin_and_reduces_ACTH_in_humans

    http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/Massage.html

    http://www.jneurosci.org/content/34/8/2879.full

  • No More Fluff and Puff

    Annet KingAs a skin therapist, massage therapist, and educator, I am often told it’s clear I love what I do. It always makes me smile because what I do – and why I do it – is who I am. There’s nothing I love more than solving skin problems, addressing business challenges and helping people. I know you can relate – from inspecting suspicious moles on family members, massaging your colleague’s sore shoulders or mapping skin at social gatherings, it’s just what we do! But the actuality of our work stretches far beyond providing skin services, waxing brows and prescribing peptides.

    We are in the business of touch, and we are no stranger to the endless list of positive health benefits our work can provide. From lowering the stress hormone cortisol, to increasing the feel good hormone oxytocin, to boosting immune function and reducing pain and anxiety, clinical proof is widely available that argues both the power of touch and the negative impact of touch deprivation.

    This has led to massage, spa and alternative therapies (like aromatherapy, acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology and hydrotherapy) finally getting the serious recognition they deserve, so much so that the number of hospitals around the world now offering complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) has tripled over the past few years. This movement is largely due to the hard medical evidence now available for alternative therapies and the fact that healthcare costs can be radically reduced when illness is prevented! And let’s not leave out the patient demand – plain and simple, many people are seeking alternative therapies.

    Seventy one percent of people would be more likely to visit spas if they knew that scientific studies showed measurable results – are you marketing your services in the right way? Or are you still using words like “luxurious,” “pampering” or “well deserved treat?” It might be time to renovate your menu and messaging, update your space and climb on board the health train – leaving the beauty bus behind!

    Discover more on this subject here:
    http://www.spaevidence.com/spaevidence
    http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research