The Meaning of Touch to Massage Therapists

The Meaning of Touch


“Touch was never meant to be a luxury.  It is a basic human need.  It is an action that validates life and gives hope to both the receiver and the giver.”  Irene Smith

I had jotted down this quote on a post it beside my work computer on February 17th.  I liked the depth of understanding that it brought. I thought that it might be something to blog about…but I dismissed it at that time for being perhaps too much for this blog.   I even took the time to look up Irene Smith to see what I might be missing.  Irene is a massage therapist who specializes in the practice of massage and mindful touch therapy for hospice patients.

On February 18th, just one short day later…I spent the day with my grandmother as she passed away from a sudden and large stroke.  I found myself wanting to make sure during her journey that she was never alone and that at all times she felt, very deep within herself, that validation of her life through touch.  As I sat with her, holding her hand and stroking her head, I even found myself without thinking performing some energy palpation work on her.

As her time drew near, I crawled into the bed with her and snuggled her up against me in the same way I snuggle my sweet toddler to sleep.  As she passed, she had my own body snuggling her tightly, my husband softly gazing over her, my mother, my cousin, and one amazing sweet nurse all laying hands on her.

The Importance of Touch

We all simply did what felt right in that moment.  So much of massage therapy is based on our own connections…connections to ourselves, to our environment, to our clients.

As human beings, we need touch, we crave the warmth and presence of another…whether the hug from a friend, the embrace of a lover, the gentleness of mother and child…the methods and particulars of human touch are numerous and generous.

We conveyed thoughts and emotions as we stroked her legs, stiff from the stroke; as we held her hands, contracted as her body lost control; and as I kissed her head before I left the room. I’m blessed to attend a massage program that understands this concept and sets up community service massage as a part of the curriculum.

In April, we will travel out into the community and bless others with the power of touch…working with individuals living in a long term care community, persons receiving services for cognitive impairment and other physical disabilities, and others in the community for whom therapeutic touch had not been a significant part of their life.

As you look towards an educational program or think about how you want to “do” the work of massage…consider taking a minute to look outside the labor market information on pay scale, opportunities, insurance, regulations, and other “stuff.”  Look instead at the people you meet and interact with on a daily basis.  Think about the benefits of touch…and how it is a need…not always just a luxury.

Massage therapy is not just something for sports injury, spa treatment, or private therapeutic appointments.

There are professionals more and more frequently who work in long term care facilities; we look to massage to support the needs of children and adults with diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders or Pervasive Developmental Disorders; persons under hospice care with almost any diagnosis find benefits of massage therapy to be relaxing and powerful.

Massage and touch need to be accessible to all…and it’s our job as therapists to carry forth this paradigm of work.

So, for today…and all of your tomorrows…make the touch that you give, whether professionally or otherwise mindful.  Until next time….breathe.