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Healing Powers of Touch

Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with diverse diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hand on every one of them, and healed them. - Luke 4:40

Prophets and teachers in most of the world's great religions have been credited with the power to heal through touch. In our own time, reports of modes of healing that involve the laying on of hands" are many.

Affectionate touch, whenever appropriate, in communicating with dying people and grieving family members, is recognized as an effective therapeutic measure. The dying experience extreme loneliness as they leave everything they have known and loved. Reassuring touch can reconnect them with the family, the community of support. Healing of this type is a healing of the spirit.

It is not the skin alone that is touched - it is a whole person. Touching brings with it a stimulation of the capillaries that increases blood flow to the area, a sharing of body heat, and a relaxation of muscular tension. Each of these factors will encourage the normal healing process. But more important, perhaps, is the way touching comforts a troubled mind, provides security for a lonely and scared victim, and communicates love, person to person. You probably know that pain is increased by anxiety, and that emotional imbalance feeds physical disease. Touch serves to ground a patient in the realization that he or she is not alone. That assurance brings healing. For ages, parents have used hugs and kisses to heal their children's hurts. Putting an arm around an asthma sufferer at the onset of an attack will frequently stop it.

When you are hurt, your hands will automatically move to the area of pain. Part of this is for protection. The other part is that we connect our hands with some ability to relieve or remove pain. A man will grasp his sprained ankle. A child curls up in a fetal position, hands covering her aching belly. A woman with a headache will frequently rub or hold her head. Watch a person with a severe toothache: you will almost always see a hand tightly pressed against the cheek and jaw. We attempt to heal ourselves through touch without much awareness. To use it more consciously can be a very powerful method of relaxation and pain reduction.

Therapeutic procedures, such as acupressure, that use touch for rebalancing and healing are growing in number and popularity. Some are based on ancient Chinese medicine, which describes a universal energy - called chi or ki - that circulates throughout the body. This energy can become blocked at any point, creating an imbalance in the system. Using massage and pressure at specified points is known to release the blockage.*

You can do a variation of acupressure for yourself with the guidance of a clear book and a little practice. Imagine being able to relieve a headache by pinching the skin below your nose and above your upper lip, or by pressing at a point on your hand between your thumb and forefinger! Strange as this may sound, these techniques sometimes work faster for many people than the leading brand of aspirin.

One of the most ancient of arts - the rubbing of tired feet - has been systematized into a science. Called foot reflexology, it correlates points on your feet with every part of your body - organs, glands, spinal column, and so on. Working on the feet is then comparable to massaging the entire body. Proponents believe that energy blocks broken up in the foot mean a recharging of the corresponding segment of the body. Many of these claims have yet to be clinically verified, but to anyone who has ever received one, the value of foot massage as a simple, loving, and healing tool is undisputed. See the following chart and instructions for a foot treatment in the next article.

Nurturing yourself through touch is a way of accepting and loving yourself - a form of preventive medicine, easy to do and immediately rewarding. Using touch with others is a primary way of opening communication and establishing intimacy with them. And intimacy is healing.

* These techniques include acupuncture, acupressure, do-in, shiatsu, and others. See Carter, M., Body Reflexology: Healing at Your Fingertips (Parker Publishing Co., 1983); Namikashi, T., The Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy (Japan Publications, 1981); and Teeguarden, I. M., Acupressure Way of Health: Jin Shin Do (Japan Publications, 1978).

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