Magic of Human Touch
By: Rommer Dizon, PT
A couple of weeks ago, for some reason, I was having mild fever and chills. This happened around 11 pm. I could not sleep and whenever I did fall asleep, I woke up feeling very cold. Yes, I’ve had my full vaccination since January, so Covid-19 is not an option at this time. That is why I don’t understand what is happening. So, there I was covered in 2 layers of the blanket with a space heater on the side of my bed. I thought I have no choice but to wake up my wife and tell her I’m not feeling well and I needed some medication downstairs.
So she went downstairs and got me some Tylenol, put some thick socks on my feet, and tucked me in really well. And then something she did made me feel a lot better than medication, socks, or blankets. Before she went to sleep, she gave me a big, big hug. It felt so good that I instantly felt better. I felt real well the following morning. Then this made me think, can hugging or touching someone have some kind of healing? I started researching about it and here is what I found out.
From the time we are born, we have been longing for skin-to-skin contact. There is some research that proves that mothers making skin-to-skin contact with their babies around their arms have a lot of benefits such as nutrient absorption, body temperature, and more. It was also found that there are also benefits for the mothers themselves such as better milk production, less chance of post-partum depression, and less stress.
People always have wanted some kind of physical contact in one way or another – a hug, a fist bump, high fives, holding the hand, etc. People always needed physical contact. I think it gives us security, a sense of belonging, acceptance, and a feeling of being loved, and this makes a difference in one’s mood.
This is not a fluke or just a coincidence, because the further I read the more I understand that there is a science behind this. I found out that when someone hugs you when you are sad when you get a massage when you feel stressed or when someone rubs a painful part of your body, it can lower the chemical Cortisol which is responsible for increased inflammation, blood pressure, and heart rate.
In physical therapy, we have a skill called manual therapy. You can say it might be the same as a massage but very different. Manual therapy has a wider scope than massage therapy. With manual therapy, we can perform joint mobilization which “mimics” the physiological movement of a joint without actually moving the body part (I can explain this in another topic). We can also give soft tissue mobilization (similar to massage, actually massage falls under this) or manual stretch (tight hamstring? No problem). Physical therapists will use this skill depending on a patients’ need. This skill is very effective in relieving pain, and now I understand why.
So next time you’re feeling down, hug somebody. If you’re feeling happy, give someone a high five or a fist bump. And if you’re having some kind of pain, go see your physical therapist, and we will help you get rid of that pain.