Latest Research on Touch and Health

Here are sum­maries of a few recent research arti­cles in the bur­geon­ing field of touch.

Touch helps your muscles work better

In the May, 2010 issue of Gait & Pos­ture, French researchers pub­lished Degrad­ed pos­tur­al per­for­mance after mus­cle fatigue can be com­pen­sat­ed by skin stim­u­la­tion.

Here’s what they found.  If you exer­cise your Achilles mus­cles to the point of fatigue, your abil­i­ty to main­tain erect pos­ture becomes impaired.  But not if the skin over your Achilles ten­don is stim­u­lat­ed.  The nerve sen­sa­tion of touch gave your body enough new infor­ma­tion that you could com­pen­sate for the mus­cle fatigue and main­tain pos­tur­al per­for­mance longer.

More on Achilles ten­don recov­ery.

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The quantifiable, physical components of a touch signal are intertwined with the social meaning of it

When some­one touch­es you, your brain rapid­ly apprais­es the mechan­i­cal prop­er­ties of the touch — how quick it is, how firm it is, where on the skin it’s occur­ring, etc.  But your over­all expe­ri­ence of being touched also depends on the social and emo­tion­al (affec­tive) mean­ing that touch has.  For instance, being touched by a per­son who you find attrac­tive will def­i­nite­ly have a dif­fer­ent mean­ing than being touched by some­one to whom you are indif­fer­ent.

Researchers pub­lish­ing in the Decem­ber 10, 2013 issue of Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences showed that the same parts of the brain process these two dif­fer­ent types of touch sig­nals, each aspect influ­enc­ing the oth­er.

More on biopsy­choso­cial mod­els of health

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Stimulating touch receptors actually leads to the growth of new neurons in the spinal cord.

More on the neur­al dynam­ics of the spinal cord

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Skin has a neuroendocrine signaling function

The chem­i­cal sig­nals from skin cells help to inte­grate bod­i­ly respons­es inde­pen­dent­ly of the brain.  It’s almost as if the skin hous­es an intel­li­gence of its own.

You may be aware that skin, when exposed to sun­light, is a major source of the hor­mone-like vit­a­min D.  But sci­en­tists are learn­ing that vit­a­min D is only one of many endocrine sig­nal­ing mol­e­cules released by skin.  The list includes mela­tonin, sero­tonin-like inflam­ma­tion-reg­u­la­tors, steroids, and sig­nalers that par­tic­i­pate in the thy­roid and adren­al reg­u­lat­ing sys­tems.

More on touch in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and health.

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.

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