"TOUCH DEPRIVATION POST-COVID: A TSUNAMI OF NEED"... a catching intro to a recent article written by a veteran massage therapist and the former president of one of our professions most notable periodicals, Douglas Nelson, NCTMB, LMT. He expounds, "DEPRESSION, already one of the most common causes of disability due to mental disorders, has increased markedly during the pandemic, some studies showing as much as a THREE-FOLD increase (1), while other studies estimate up to a SEVEN-FOLD increase (2)." World-wide our society is still floating over the shock-waves of 2020's crazy events, and many around us are still suffering the effects of long-term isolation.
One incident as noted in Nelson's article (as relating to a client of his and their experience during the pandemic) was this:
'... Breaking the silence, she continued. “I have not thought about it until now, but due to the pandemic, I HAVE NOT HAD ANYONE TOUCH ME IN WELL OVER A YEAR. In the beginning, I was almost completely isolated from outside contact due to my age and the fact that I live alone. As restrictions eased, my daughter would visit, then over time, friends and family as well".... In all that time, however,” she added, “there have been no affectionate hugs, no physical displays of affection. Think of the ramifications of that lack of touch, not just for me, but for society in general.'
Most professional massage therapists (as well as many dedicated massage advocates) know that touch is a critical human need. If you have any questions about this, just ask Google about king Frederick II of Germany and his unruly experiments that still remind us today that babies, devoid of affectionate touch in even the smallest quantities, will die. Touch stimulates the human nervous system, of which there are estimated to be "90,000 miles of sensations," as one author wrote. With such a profound volume of "feeling" in the human system, what a loss it must be to our overall wellness to have this system so drastically neglected in our modern day touch-starved society. Of course, those "in the know" understand that the answer to this question was being realized even before Covid-19 thanks in part to Frederick and those like him, but also thanks to our touch-devoid, social-media-rich screens! A simple hug, a pat on the back, a split-second high-five. Every one of these actions add-up day by day and help make the human being's experience complete.
Nelson, among others not ignorant of the benefits of massage therapy for aiding sufferers through periods of anxiety and depression, continues:
'One of the greatest gifts of massage therapy might be its ability to reveal the nervous system to itself.... the recipients experience their inner reality, a process called interoception.... Simply stated, touch can possibly facilitate a “software update” for the brain as you cannot change that which you are unaware. The therapist’s hands become like mirrors, reflecting the nervous system to itself...; Another important point... is that increased interoceptive accuracy decreased Alexithymia, a condition where people struggle to identify the feelings they feel, especially the somatic aspects of those feelings. This is an important point because there seems to be a link between depression and alexithymia (4).'
So what does this have to do with you? Well, if you're not getting regular, nurturing touch from family, friends, co-workers, or even a family pet, we'd like to suggest that you should. A visit to your local professional massage therapist might just be the place for you to do so. If you are a healthcare provider of any kind, take an extra moment with those you interact with, whether patient or colleague.
If you are just a normal guy or gal, but are a well known friend of those around you and have the capacity to offer compassionate, socially-acceptable touch in the way of a fist-bump or elbow bump for a job well done, a pat on the shoulder to a friend at work, or a basic side-squeeze (hug) to a soul in need, it might bring much needed relief for that not-always-obvious "empty feeling" that so many of our friends, neighbors and colleagues carry with them from day to day (upwards of 45% of Americans have reported feeling lonely). ☼ And be sure to remember your family. More and more many family members are going too long without regular, positive touch -- especially as screen-time infringes on previously normal interactions within our households and in society. ♥ Experts have suggested that a brief twenty-second hug or a 30 minute massage received regularly can do a world of good!!
Not a fan of physical affection? That's okay too, but even the most staunch, touch-prohibitive persons need to experience beneficial, "healing" touch from time to time too. For those on the masculine side of things, why not gather your buddies around for a back-slapping, bro-uplifting, man-date, if you have to! ;-) Or a furry friend, like a dog or cat, might be a great benefit to you.
1) Ettman CK, et al. “Prevalence of depression symptoms in US adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.” JAMA network open 3.9 (2020); e2019686-e20119686.
2) Bueno-Notivol J,, et al. Prevalence of depression during the COVID-19 outbreak: A meta-analysis of community-based studies.” International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology 21.1 (2021): 100196.
3) “Touch Deprivation Post-COVID: A ‘Tsunami of Need’ for Massage.” MASSAGE Magazine, 14 July 2021, www.massagemag.com/touch-deprivation-post-covid-a-tsunami-…/.
4) Bornemann B, Singer T. “Taking time to feel our body: Steady increases in heartbeat perception accuracy and decreases in alexithymia over 9 months of contemplative mental training.” Psychophysiology 54.3 (2017): 469-482.
Coronavirus has affected our operations in reference to many of the subjects or services listed herein. Please see our dedicated COVID-19 page for information. Until further notice, all of our standard policies and procedures will be trumped by the Nebraska State DHM (Directed Health Measures) in order to stay in compliance with state law as far as possible. Thank you all for your continued support and patience as we collectively work through this.
Jerri W., LMT, CWC
Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Wellness Coach with over 25+ years of experience in pain management, relaxation techniques and lifestyle education.
Heather R., LMT, CWC
Certified Wellness Coach and Licensed Massage Therapist with a passion for helping others achieve optimal wellness through healthier living.
NOTICE: The information provided herein is meant for educational purposes only. We accept no liability for your use of the information provided. As always, use your best judgment and if in doubt, please consult your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.