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The magic substance of touch

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Dec 14 2016 10:00AM

Massage therapist and yoga teacher, Erika Zetterval, looks at the wonderful hormone, oxytocin and considers how it is produced and how we interact with it in massage and in life.

Why does it feel soo good having a massage? What is it that creates that afterglow and gooey

buzzing wellbeing? What if we could have it on tap?

A yoga teacher friend of mine exclaims " you gotta participate, be receptive and open", when

chatting about good massage treatment.

The answer is, oxytocin and yes, you can get it "on tap" in form of a spray. Tough that is not the

best option in the long run.

Oxytocin was originally discovered in 1906 by a British scientist Henry Dale in connection with

breast feeding and child birth and there it might be where most of our general knowledge and

familiarity lays. More recently you might have come across oxytocin referred to as the "love

hormone" advocating hugging, in popular press.

However, research by Swedish scientist Kerstin Moberg Uvnäs over the last thirty years, confirms

the theory that oxytocin not a substance exclusive to mothers, but has much wider existence and

importance as an ingenious substance prevalent in all humans as well as in animals.

It's primary function and existence is to create and aid our ability to bond and develop social ties.

But it does have further additional functions that are rather incredible. Apart from a general sense

of wellbeing it also reduces fear and aggression, is relaxing and calming, increases pain threshold

and deepens our relationship. Supports immune system, breathing, sleeping, wound healing. A

long and impressive list of attributes.

Nature has given us the ability to produce this marvellous (but complex) substance released into

our bloodstream when we touch, are being touched but even being in proximity with others that

means us well, will stimulate production. That explains the joy of good company. But our capacity

to produce has individual variations, in some oxytocin flows easily and abundantly in others not so.

Like everything else nature hands us from birth we have different predispositions but also our life

circumstances plays a significant part in this instance.

The last bit here is crucial and why administrating oxytocin as a bliss spray is not best option.

The missing component to experience self produced flow of oxytocin and wellbeing buzz is trust.

Trust in being touched. Trust it is safe to be touched.

The 'formula' for wellbeing (and all benefits of oxytocin) is simply put:

Rubbing skin + trust = oxytocin production

You might have noted, if you still with me, that oxytocin also increase trust and a feeling of safety.

It's there for us to strengthen the bonds between those who means us well, but not to be reckless

and unbounded. It takes a building up to but in the long run preferred to encourage our own

capacity gaining trust rather than interfering our natural abilities with an external administration,

better stimulate and build our own production.

Massage is fantastic and top choice but any body therapy are beneficial in encouraging the

production, provided of cause, the recipient feel safe and trust the therapist. The touching of soft

materials, stroking animals, yoga, even singing in a group will also have a positive effect and can

be a place to top up your oxytocin and could be a starting point to those who are not comfortable

with touch.

I might be preaching to the converted here but it might be good to understand others reluctance

and resistance to touch and how important it is to go easy, but also how beneficial it is.

Returning to my friend, who now have it worked out that for max benefit of massage she needs to

open to receive. In other words to trust and the bliss will be there. This, I know was not always the

case but rather developed over time.

Top tip:

Have a massage, massage yourself with some warmed nice oil, have a bath, hug someone you

love, stroke a pet, put on a warm soft jumper or socks.

The WNT team can help you with some of this apart from treatments we also have some lovely

oils, body butter, wheat bags to heat and put on and some bath salts that will boost your wellbeing


Erika is at West Norwood Therapies on Wednesday afternoon/evenings and every other Friday afternoon

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