Martha had just completed many months of treatment for breast cancer and was on a cruise to relax after the arduous experience. What she was most looking forward to after boarding the ship was receiving a massage. For weeks beforehand she had anticipated it. But when the time finally came, Martha was turned away. The massage therapist had been taught never to massage clients with cancer. Unfortunately the therapist didn’t know that a cancer diagnosis is no longer an automatic contraindication for massage.
Touch Research Institute
On the surface, it may seem that the best part of a massage is the wonderful feeling of relaxation and being touched, but the benefits are more than just skin deep. For almost two decades, researchers at the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine have documented the specific physiological and psychological changes brought about by massage therapy.
Author’s note: With greater societal acceptance of complementary therapies, many more doors have opened for massage therapists. I went through one of those doors when I became a certified infant massage instructor in the Perinatal and Neonatal Units at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where I have practiced since 1992. This is my story.
As you lie on the table under crisp, fresh sheets, hushed music draws you into the moment. The smell of sage fills the air and you hear the gentle sound of massage oil being warmed in your therapist’s hands. The pains of age, the throbbing from your overstressed muscles, the sheer need to be touched — all cry out for therapeutic hands to start their work. Once the session gets underway, the problems of the world fade into an oblivious 60 minutes of relief and all you can comprehend right now is not wanting it to end.
A parent’s touch holds great power. The soothing massage of a mother’s hand can calm a fussy infant. A child’s fevered brow may be cooled by the gentle stroke of her father’s palm. And in too many unfortunate cases, a child may be physically hurt and abused by a striking blow from his parent. A natural conduit for emotions, touch or the lack thereof transmits important information about the parent/child bond, whether one of acceptance or rejection.
Jonathan Clark teaches children with developmental and communication disorders. He is also a certified massage therapist with a dream. “There are so many different things that massage helps adults with,” said Clark recently from his office at The Matthew Reardon Advanced Academy in Savannah, Ga. “I know it relaxes me to the point I can focus. I thought maybe it could help a child focus.”