Massage and the Healing Powers of Human Touch

It is easy to overlook the impact something like human touch can have on someone suffering with pain, chronic illness, or stress.  In America, we look for a purely medical solution first.  Maybe it’s a prescription or a surgery.  We seek out health care professionals to ease our pain.  But when applying a more holistic approach, we become open to other therapies that can be extremely helpful with symptom management and wellbeing.  Remedies like body massage can bring about healing when done with skill and patience.  There is magic in the human touch.

At Charron Medical we carry muscle relief products, such as hot and cold therapy and anti-inflammatory recovery creams like bio-freeze gel and even CBD lotion.  When dealing with a sore muscle at home, I like to apply lotion before massaging.  And after massaging for 15-20 minutes, a little cold helps reduce inflammation and soreness.

I read a touching story once about depression and foot massage.  I wish I could remember where it was, because I would love to read it again.  The man in the story suffered from major depression.  He was living a purely unjoyful and apathetic existence.  His family kept asking him, “what can we do?”.  Always the same reply, “nothing”.  The man was in treatment, and he was waiting for the therapy and medication to help.  When you have been depressed for years, there is no instant relief.

However, the man’s son took a different approach.  He didn’t try to fix it, he just sat with him.  They might watch television together.  Or simply exist in the same space.  The son started giving the man foot massage.  It was weird at first – for both of them.  Let’s face it – some men are not good at being touched.  And it felt intimate, a little too intimate, when the man’s son started kneading his knuckles into his foot arches.

Over several months they continued this routine when they were sitting together.  The touch started to work magic, and the man began paying attention to the feeling in his feet.  They were sharing a moment, a singular focus.  The touch was grounding and provided the sick man with the smallest sensation of being alive.  His awareness perked up when his feet were affectionately rubbed and stroked. 

Eventually, the man began to heal.  It was a combination of therapeutic intervention that treated his depression and returned his sense of wellbeing.  When asked about what helped him get better, the man cited only the foot massages.  It was a simple gift – the gift of human touch.  The gift was delivered with patience and without judgement. 

Nobody can know what impact this had on his recovery.  It is hard to tease out, because of the multiple treatments.  We can’t put it on a pie chart and say, “His recovery was 30% medication, 30% therapy, 30% excercise and 10% foot massage”.  But we can listen to the patient, and believe him when he tells us that the simple gift of kindness, in the form of human touch, was healing.   

There are many different types of massage.  It can be overwhelming, so consider the basic styles and see which might be right for you or for the person you take care of.  And of course, consult a doctor if you have any medical conditions.  A good massage therapist will also do a thorough intake before laying a hand on you.

  • Swedish massage: uses a series of long, gliding strokes designed to soothe aching muscles, relax connective tissue, and improve circulation. Swedish massage is ideal for newcomers and those wanting a relaxing massage.
  • Deep-tissue massage: targets tissues and muscle deep below the skin’s surface to release tension, minimize knots, and mobilize fluids within the muscle tissue. Deep-tissue massage shouldn’t hurt, but it is often less comfortable than a regular Swedish massage. People with specific muscle pain benefit the most.
  • Structural massage:realigns and lengthens muscles that have become unbalanced or shortened from built-up stress and allows bones and joints to return to their natural alignment. This massage type is especially good for people with postural or back problems.
  • Trigger-point massage: designed to relieve pain caused by constricted areas of muscle called trigger points. For example, a trigger point in the neck may cause pain in the head. Trigger points often are a result of injuries, overuse, muscle strain, and emotional distress.
  • Sports massage: focuses on healing, recovery, and preventing and treating sports-related injuries.
  • Chair massage: for people who are uncomfortable with being partially unclothed or cannot lie down comfortably.  Many people with mobility issues prefer a chair massage.

 When booking a massage, be sure to ask all your questions.  They should be able to tell you what type of massage they offer, how long it will last, and what the cost is.  Though some insurances will cover “massage therapy”, most do not.  You will likely be paying out of pocket for the session.  Always remember, that you can stop anytime.  If you are feeling pain or discomfort, talk to the practitioner.  They are licensed professionals and want to listen to you.

The best massage you get might be in your own home by a caregiver or loved one.  Remember the healing powers of a gentle foot or hand massage.