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Getting your massage fix: it's in the chemistry

Awhile back here in San Diego, there was this sappy radio commercial about "hugs" being good for your health. Normally I'd pretend to be all cool and make some snarky comment about it. But honestly, when I hear it on the radio, the little biologist in me gets all excited. Human touch IS about chemistry. And that's what we do in our massage work here every day. We touch. We play with chemistry.

Here's a pretty cool thing about human touch: it has a physiological response in the body. It's not all in our heads. We're talking hugs, snuggles, massage, as well as more intimate connections.

Swedish researcher Kerstin Uvnas Moberg has been studying the human (mammalian) hormone Oxytocin for decades and posits it as the biological maker for a physiological system she calls "Calm and Connect." While Oxytocin is famous for its role in birth as well as breastfeeding and mommy-baby bonding, it is not at all exclusively a female hormone and plays an important role throughout life in all of us. Moberg argues that oxytocin is critical in our ability to socialize, feel secure and calm, work well and be healthy. It plays an important role in adult relationships, forming bonds between lovers and helps us form friendships and work in groups.

This Calm and Connect response is marked by deeper relaxation and can be measured:

  • lowered blood pressure and heart rate

  • increased circulation in skin and mucous membranes

  • lowered levels of stress hormones

  • more effective digestion, nutritional uptake and storage.

Moberg argues that this Calm and Connect response is not just the absence of a stress response, but a full physiological response. (Think about the difference you might feel after a massage versus just hanging out watching tv).

Wanna get your Oxytocin flowing? Moberg's own research and review of decades of research indicate that human touch is one of the most powerful ways to elicit this "calm and connect" response. So go out and get some healthy touch, folks!!! For your health. :)

PS. Wanna know more about Moberg's work?  Check out her books: The Hormone of Closeness: The role of oxytocin in relationships (2013)  and The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the hormone of calm, love and healing (2003).

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