The power of our touch

Power of touchWhen DD Palmer called our profession “chiropractic” — combining the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (action) — he couldn’t have chosen a better name. While there are a few doctors who substitute mechanical devices for their hands, even those practitioners have some hands-on work with patients — palpation, adjusting or just placing the hands on affected areas.

We, and our patients, have always known that the success of chiropractic has a great deal to do with the “personal touch” we provide (metaphorically as well as literally). Surveys on patient satisfaction almost always emphasize the influence of our personal involvement with those under our care, particularly when compared to the cold, impersonal treatment received from many medical providers.

A recent research study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and presented at the 6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology, reinforces our understanding of the importance of true “by hand” practice, whether it’s provided by a health care practitioner or a caretaker.

Researchers found that touch — particularly massage — administered by care partners significantly reduces the effects of cancer and the side-effects from its treatment while providing comfort and improvement in the quality of life.

In the study, 97 family caregivers learned touch and massage techniques from a 78-minute instructional DVD, called “Touch, Caring, and Cancer: Simple Instruction for Family and Friends.” They then used these touch techniques to safely care for people living with cancer. “The magnitude of the impact of family members was unexpected. Our research found significant reductions of pain, anxiety, fatigue, depression and nausea when massage was routinely administered at home by family and caregivers,” lead researcher William Collinge, PhD, revealed.

The study found massage by family members reduced stress/anxiety (44% reduction), pain (34%), fatigue (32%), depression (31%), and nausea (29%).

“The discovery that family members can learn and administer simple massage techniques that can consistently reduce stress is significant. Stress is a constant that negatively impacts the lives and wellbeing of cancer patients,” Collinge wrote. “Both cancer patients and caregivers benefit because massage appears to strengthen the relationship bond. Massage provides the caregiver a way to make a difference.”

This research not only reminds us of the significance of personal touch between doctor and patient, but might be a good incentive to bring a massage therapist into your practice. The synergistic effect of the two disciplines would no doubt benefit many patients and might increase patient volume.

You may even want to provide certain patients with the video used to train the participants in the study (it’s available from I believe strongly that the “hands on” approach works for all people, regardless of the state of their health. Since it reduces stress — the primary cause of most health issues — it would be effective on most people, not just those with cancer.