As a #massage therapist I (usually) I touch lots of different people all day and I think we don’t give enough credence to just that simple concept; being touched in a caring manner (although with me it’s bound to be a little painful sometimes!!). There are many people in the Physio industry who are very dismissive of ‘manual therapy’ these days and it really bugs me. Yes, most injuries respond to rehab exercises but why can’t people also choose something just because it feels good!? Why dismiss it all out of hand just because YOU think it’s useless. If you don’t like it, fine, but maybe you just need more hugs.

On the other hand, I get the fact that lots of so-called complimentary therapy offers the earth without the necessary evidence to back it up. Anyone who is still practicing massage in any form in the current pandemic is absolutely kidding themselves that it’s a “necessary medical treatment”. Come on guys, it’s not. Get down off your high horse. At the moment, if people are really having issues they can see an Allied Health professional safely, so STOP massaging and putting people at risk. 

From my perspective, people who come to see me regularly do so because it makes them feel better! It’s not rocket science and yes, I often help people recover from injury but that always involves some sort of exercise prescription if they are not already doing my Pilates classes – all of which can be done online right now. Of course, our clients are craving their treatments and even putting pressure on therapists to continue working because the therapeutic process of a massage really should not be underestimated. If someone has taken an hour out of their week, or month to go get a massage for an hour it may be that this is their only time just for them! Using this time for self-care is invaluable and, of course, attractive because it’s a passive thing. You can just lay back and breathe and who doesn’t need a bit of that right now?!

In child development, touch is so essential it can even affect survival rates. On the baby massage course I teach we discuss how important it is to connect with your baby other than when you are addressing a need. So obviously parents and caregivers interact while feeding, bathing, changing and winding but we need loving touch beyond that to develop properly. We need a range of sensations to develop the vestibular system and to learn early communications as we discover the world around us. This is SO critical that studies in orphanages have shown that babies with cots nearest the door of the ward and therefore getting more regular interaction are much more like to thrive than infants getting less contact.

For for people with chronic conditions, I’m not claiming that a regular massage with cure you, and do not listen to anyone who claims anything of the sort, but it sure helps manage pain sensation and your mental wellbeing in general. I know this from experience as well as personally. My treatments usually involve a chat (“massage and a moan” – patent pending) and I do find that this allows people to get things physically off their chest. Whatever people say on the massage couch, stays on the massage couch.

Fun facts:

  • Being hugged is an analgesic, meaning it realises the natural pain-killing chemicals in your brain. The first instinct we have when we fall and hurt ourselves is to squeeze or rub the painful area because of this.
  • Studies have shown that holding hands or hugging to show support releases stress and increases pain tolerance. It can also deepen the connection of your relationships though non-verbal understanding.
  • This serotonin release also makes us happier.
  • Hugging can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • A 2014 study shoed that regular hugging helps the immune system fight of colds and flu.

Family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Massage could be thought of as essentially a really great hug, and I can’t wait to get back to it once it’s safe.