Massages

‘Massage breaks the pain cycle’: the return of touch – after almost two years without it – The Guardian

Summary

In a pandemic that has meant keeping 2 metres away from one another whenever possible, it appears that physical contact is beginning to return. Even handshakes are making a comeback: one poll found younger people were shaking hands again, although older generations are more uneasy about it. “We are wired to respond to emotional touch,” says Francis McGlone, a professor of neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University. “My analogy is that [touch is] like a vitamin …….

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In a pandemic that has meant keeping 2 metres away from one another whenever possible, it appears that physical contact is beginning to return. Even handshakes are making a comeback: one poll found younger people were shaking hands again, although older generations are more uneasy about it. “We are wired to respond to emotional touch,” says Francis McGlone, a professor of neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University. “My analogy is that [touch is] like a vitamin – if we are depleted, there are consequences in terms of our physical health. I make the same argument about the C-tactile afferents – the nerve fibre that evolved in all social mammals to provide the reward associated with close physical contact. When the fibre is stimulated, it does a number of measurable things – it lowers heart rate and it lowers cortisol, the stress hormone.” It’s one reason, he says with a laugh, he believes so many people got pets during lockdown: “That’s the brain recognising ‘I need to touch something’.”

For the pet-less, touch-starved, skin-hungry among us, physical contact is a welcome thing. Even before the pandemic, we were living through a “crisis of touch”; perhaps the enforced distance of the past 18 months has made us realise how vital touch is after all. For the people whose jobs rely heavily on touch, it’s been a particularly difficult time. Here’s how they are navigating its return.

Anna Fortes Mayer, a professional cuddler. Photograph: Courtesy of Anna Fortes Mayer

I haven’t run any group workshops since the first lockdown: it’s still too early, and it doesn’t feel responsible yet. Some of those who come to me are nervous around touch, they want to get more comfortable with it, and some are desperate for it; they don’t have enough of it in their lives.

I still run one-to-one sessions, but for a long time I didn’t. With touch, very often there’s a backstory. For some, it’s purely about being in an unconditional space where somebody caring is holding their hand while they talk. For others, it might be that they had a childhood full of neglect, and now they just want to be held. I have, for two hours, sat with my arms around somebody in full foetal position and just held them. Slowly they just unfolded.

Touch is the primary form of bonding, so without contact, even in a subtle way – we’re still talking on the phone, we can still go for walks, but we haven’t touched – there’s something lost. Touch is all about happiness, relaxation and stress reduction. It is about that feeling of connection to others. Even if …….

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/nov/08/massage-breaks-the-pain-cycle-the-return-of-touch-after-almost-two-years-without-it