The Healing Power of Human Touch

Sometimes when I have a bad day, I just know that a hug from a friend will make everything better. The idea of human touch having some healing power is such a nice thought. Getting a hug or even a kind pat on the back can change an entire experience from negative to positive, but have you ever considered why this is the case?

We don’t usually think of physical touch as a form of therapy, but studies have shown that being touched can actually help lessen pain, improve immune system functionality, improve pulmonary function, increase growth and development, and lower blood glucose. With more discoveries being made every day, the healing power of human touch is definitely something more than just a “nice thought.”

healing power of human touch

Scientific Facts About the Healing Power of Human Touch

A Simple Touch May Save Lives

One of the first studies that showed the healing power of human touch was done during WWII. Dr. Rene Spitz was perplexed when orphaned infants that were being given the basic needs – shelter, food, and a sterile environment – were dying. The infant mortality rates sky rocketed as more infants came to the orphanage and, despite being given excellent care, passed away. After extensive study years later, the American psychologist Harry Harlow concluded that the infants died from lack of touch.

If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Infants are so helpless when they enter this world and their only sense that is fully developed is touch. They would thrive much better in a situation that is warm, safe, and full of physical contact just like the womb where they thrived before birth.

Human Touch Translates Into Feeling Security

The need for human touch isn’t just present in infants. When you are touched, the many nerve endings in your skin send messages back to your brain. This is the way we feel things like pain or heat. When you are touched by another person, the signals sent to your brain translate into feelings of security, happiness, and comfort. These feelings are supported by a decrease in stress hormones and an increase oxytocin, a hormone thought to calm and counter stress.

The Healing Power of Human Touch – Lower Blood Pressure and Much More

These findings were supported by a study conducted at Brigham Young University in 2008. In the study, 20 young married couples (ages 20-39) participated in a 4 week intervention that taught them about the importance of physical and emotional closeness. Then they participated in supportive touch activities at home, including three 30-minute massages a week. During the testing period the couples wore blood pressure monitors for 24 hours to supply a number of readings. In addition, the couples were asked to fill out questionnaires about how often they kissed, held hands, hugged, or showed other signs of affection. The control group of 14 couples had the testing done but not the intervention or massages. When comparing the two groups, the test group that had more supportive touch also showed lower blood pressure levels and higher levels of oxytocin. This was especially true for men.

healing power of human touch for young married couples

Physical contact is so much more than a way to “feel better.” The biological responses of supportive nonsexual touch can actually help the healing process. Many hospitals offer “professional touch” like massage therapy in order to ease the pain of patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and several other painful diseases. Further research will probably reveal more about the healing power of human touch; but, until then, you might want to set up an appointment for your own massage session.

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The author, Penelope, is a regular contributor at, a retailer of TENS units and other health therapy products used to treat athletic injuries.

Picture: Liz Grace and ekelly89

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