The Benefits of Human Touch and Reiki

The Benefits of Human Touch and Reiki

The simple act of touch is so powerful that it’s tied to many physical responses. Think of a cranky baby who calms down and eventually falls asleep, thanks to a mother’s soothing touch. Or consider how a brisk massage can invigorate someone who is feeling depleted. And what about the sense of relaxation felt when petting a dog or cat?

Not surprisingly, touch offers some real physical and mental health benefits. For instance, touch activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is the body’s control center governing the body’s major systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Furthermore, touch can trigger the release of oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone connected to love and bliss. Touch also calms the brain and promotes feelings of trust and generosity.

Touch Therapies

Many people seek out formalized touch therapies to improve their health. These touch therapies include massage therapies such as acupressure, aromatherapy, lomi lomi, ka huna, manual lymphatic drainage, myofascial release, reflexology, seated chair massage, shiatsu, Swedish massage and trigger point massage. Other forms of touch therapy include Bowen therapy, craniosacral therapy, Healing Touch, jin shin jyutsu, polarity therapy and therapeutic touch.

Increasingly researchers are studying these therapies in people with various health conditions. For instance, studies found that touch therapy can help people with Alzheimer’s disease make emotional connections; this type of therapy also encourages relaxation and reduces depression symptoms in people with this type of dementia. Furthermore, touch therapy may reduce pain and ease symptoms of prenatal depression in pregnant women. A reassuring touch by a doctor also may boost survival rates for patients with complex diseases.

Touch and Energy Work

One touch therapy – Reiki — takes a holistic approach to health by guiding energy through the body. This complementary health approach involves practitioners placing their hands on or just above a person’s skin to guide energy – or chi – through the body. Practitioners suggest that Reiki reduces stress and encourages relaxation, thus allowing the body to regain its natural balance or homeostasis. This recalibration promotes healing and can be used for self-improvement.

Research into Reiki is just beginning. Small studies suggest that Reiki may reduce anxiety and pain. Furthermore, studies indicate that this technique may encourage relaxation, lower fatigue and symptoms of depression and strengthen overall well-being.

While some experts find the results inconclusive, the scarcity of results shouldn’t be seen as a total discounting of the effectiveness of Reiki or other touch therapies. Some researchers hypothesize that Reiki’s benefits are triggered on a subphysical level in the biofield. This field is believed to be an intricately layered and subtle vibrational energy field that surrounds and penetrates the physical body. Researchers currently are trying to develop the technology to measure this field.

*article petitioned by Jennifer Buergermeister, and written for Jennifer Buergermeister by Dorian Martin. Edited by Jennifer Buergermeister.

Primary Source for This Post:
Bach, M. (ND). What Is Healing Touch? University of Minnesota.
Cancer Council NSW. (2014). Types of Massage and Touch Therapies.
Keltner, D. (2010) Hands On Research: The Science of Touch. University of California Berkley Greater Good Science Center.
Miles, P. (ND). How Does Reiki Work? University of Minnesota.
Miles, P. (ND). What Does the Research Say About Reiki? University of Minnesota.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2015). Reiki: In Depth. (ND). What Is Reiki?