Benefits of touch

Sometimes, caregivers or care partners may overlook the importance of touching the person receiving care.  According to research, the need for touch increases with age, illness and/or the amount of isolation experienced.

Recently a patient remembered his experience of being comforted by the power of touch. Having been placed in a medically- induced coma, he awoke to find himself on a ventilator and in a great deal of pain, but an ICU nurse was there at this critical time.

Reacting to his confusion and obvious fear, the nurse asked him if she could massage his hand and continued her touch therapy by massaging both of his hands and feet, and he recalls feeling so comforted by her touch that his pain and fear diminished.

Back rubs, lightly massaging the arms or legs, holding a hand or just placing your hand on someone are ways to incorporate touch into caregiving.

Studies have shown that touch, specifically massage, may decrease pain levels and increase levels of serotonin, similar to the way antidepressants work.  It has been said that many ailments of the elderly could be attributed to lack of touch because they often have lost their spouse and no longer have someone who can meet that need.

Recent “touch deprivation” research presents strong evidence that restoring massage or touch therapy back into the healthcare field would provide patients with more comfort and less medication.  In the 1950’s, it was common for patients to have a back rub or massage during illness.  Unfortunately, with the advent of massage parlors, the term “massage” developed an unsavory reputation and the use of it in the medical field became uncommon.

Here are other benefits to touch therapy:

  • Eases aches and pains;
  • Encourages greater joint flexibility;
  • Provides sensory flexibility;
  • Provides sensory stimulation, resulting in increased body awareness;
  • Induces a relaxation response and increases a sense of calm;
  • Supports psychosocial well-being and decreases feelings of isolation;
  • Acknowledges one’s worth regardless of the condition of the body or mind.

Touching costs nothing and can be done at any time and any place, but the benefits can be far reaching.   What benefits have you found in touch therapy?



Myositis Support and Understanding Association (MSU) is a patient-centered, all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Empowering the Myositis Community. Founded by Myositis patients, for Myositis patients, MSU provides education, support, advocacy, access to research and clinical trial matching, and need-based financial assistance.

View more information: Myositis Support

1 Comment
  1. Jerry Williams 8 years ago

    As a patient with polymyositis, I know the isolation and depression that can be a part of chronic illness. Having a back rub or even just someone lightly rubbing my arms or legs truly makes a difference in how I feel.

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