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The Wonder of Touch

I was driving to work last Friday. The bitter cold had left the streets in Chicago icy, pothole filled and a bit dangerous in places to navigate. As I rounded the corner onto Sheridan Road, my seemingly smooth commute time was hampered by police lights in the distance further down the road. As I got closer to the area where the police car was stopped, the scope of an accident came into view. A mini SUV had crashed, and was partially sitting on the sidewalk and the street. The car had rotated from the outer right lane to rest at about a 45 degree angle. Pieces of the vehicle lay in the street and as I inched my way forward, the faces of those potentially involved came into view.

My first glimpse was of a man, tall, Caucasian, who looked to be in his late 30s to early 40s. His face had the look of utter devastation and distress. Seemingly ready to break into tears, the next thing I noticed was a man and a woman standing beside him. He and his companion, both Caucasian, looked to be slightly older than the gentleman who was distraught. It was not apparent if they were related or another party involved in the accident or bystanders who came to the aid of the driver of the wrecked vehicle. The last image I saw was the one man reach out and place his hand on the back of the man who was impacted by the accident.

While the gesture was simple, it was a reminder of how we can support one another so readily in ways that on the surface may seem insufficient and mildly effective but can help people bear up bravely under the most trying of circumstances. It made me ponder just how important a touch could be.

Touch has always been a powerful tool for promoting health and well-being. In the 1970’s the practice of “Healing touch” came into popularity. With hands technically hovered over the individual, healing touch operated off of the notion that people are naturally healthy. The process involves moving energy within individuals (WebMD, June 2009).

A key component of the care regimen for pre-mature babies is massage therapy. Massage has many health benefits including helping babies to grow, improving neurological development, aiding with respiratory and gastrointestinal health and increasing blood circulation (Loving Touch, 2011). In their ongoing development, massage and rubdowns are a gesture of love and help babies to sleep better and more soundly. Starting from the top of their heads and to the soles of their feet it is an encouraged regular exercise for infants (WebMD Video, 2014).

So in the midst of a stressful situation like a car accident or sudden loss, a touch, gentle in nature, in combination with psychotherapy to trigger and release painful memories, or specific therapeutic massage in physical therapy and deep tissue massage or with greater intensity and purpose can reduce stress and bring peace and calm under the most trying of circumstances.