The power of touch
In studying the healing practices of different cultures, one finds certain commonalities, the most notable of which is the “laying on of hands.” The human touch has long been considered to have healing powers, and the practice of laying on of hands can be seen even in ape families, in which grooming is an intimate form of bonding. As far as we’ve come from our ape predecessors, as humans, we too feel a connection to others, and perhaps a sense of healing through touching.
Medical practices such as chiropractics and acupuncture have long taken advantage of these healing powers. Manipulating the spine and targeting pressure points and chi energies, these practices date back hundreds of years and have continued to exist for their continued benefit to the human body, mind and spirit.
In addition, spa treatments such as manicures, pedicures, facials and even haircuts serve more than just beauty purposes—they are forms of person-to-person contact that can have healing powers. Bridging the doctor’s office and the spa, massage therapy has always held a prominent position in the healing model.
Of the several massage types available, the most basic and instinctive is a traditional back rub. Back rubs are a quick way to help relieve stress by physically targeting aching muscles in the neck and back and stimulating circulation to the rest of the body.
The physical release of tense muscles sends hormone signals back to the brain. “Feel good” serotonin and dopamine hormones are then released while the production of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is inhibited. This means reduced heart rate, blood pressure, depression and anxiety, as well as alleviated physical pain.
Lucky for Wash. U. students, back rubs will now be offered for free at special events held by a new program on campus called “Stressbusters.” Trained student Stressbusters will be offering back rubs as a means of stress relief in addition to wellness information regarding stress management.
This is great news, not only because back rubs feel good, but also because they have incredible benefits. Physically working and stimulating muscles prompts old blood to move out and new blood to move in, improving circulation. Improved circulation has benefits of its own as new oxygenated blood to the muscles reduces the amount of lactic acid in the muscles and associated soreness.
Back rubs can also stimulate the lymphatic system of the body, improving the immune system and reducing the risk of contracting an infection or virus (which is especially helpful during these winter months). So helpful, in fact, that health practitioners claim a 1-hour full body massage can have the physical benefits of three hours of aerobic exercise. Unfortunately, that does not mean you should drop your morning workout for a trip to Massage Envy, but it does mean that every now and then a good ole back rub could do you some good.