Thursday, September 30, 2010
Massage Therapy in The News
On Monday, September 20, National Public Radio ran a story called “Human Connections Start with a Friendly Touch”, which briefly explained how touch affects the body and mind. It began with a description of the sensitivity of the skin, our largest organ. Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami in Florida, explained that when somebody touches the skin the pressure activates receptors called Pacinian corpuscles.
The Pacinian corpuscles' signals go directly to an important nerve bundle deep in the brain, the vagus nerve, which goes down to several internal organs, including the heart. The vagus nerve then slows down the heart and decreases blood pressure.
Another way touch is beneficial is through hormonal changes that were described by Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana. He explained that touch can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the neuropeptide oxytocin. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," he said. Research shows that oxytocin levels go up with holding hands, hugging, and especially with therapeutic massage.
Listen to the report or read it on NPR. Comments on their site about this report remind us that touch is not universally accepted, something that professional development class goes into in detail.
On Tuesday, September 21 The New York Times ran an article entitled “Massage Benefits are More Than Skin Deep.” A report on research sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the article ran in the science section.
Researchers recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage. All of the subjects were fitted with intravenous catheters so blood samples could be taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward. Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin, a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system. The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.