Does Human Touch Confer Healing Properties

I remember back to my 3rd year of medical school working with one of my mentors, Dr. Roger Thomas. Dr. Thomas spent most of his career as a missionary physician in Malawi Africa. Kindness, compassion and mercy came so natural to him and I knew I wanted to be like him one day. When I asked him, “What can I do to become a better physician”, I got a surprising answer. He told me to buy the shortest stethoscope I could find, which I did. I told him it made me uncomfortable as I had to get too close to the patient. He told me that when I am comfortable that close, I will be on my way to becoming a physician. What Dr. Thomas subsequently taught me was that human beings, particularly when ill, respond positively to human intimacy in the form of touch. The act of healing is often depicted with human hands.

Today, evidenced based research is showing that, human touch, in fact confers healing. Touch, a key component of traditional healing, is being increasingly studied in mainstream medicine, with some trials showing benefit in a number of areas, including asthma, high blood pressure, migraine headache, and child hood diabetes. Other research findings suggest that not only does touch lower stress levels, but it also can boost the immune system, and halt or slow the progress of disease.

The touch institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects including faster growth in premature infants, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes and improved immune systems in people with cancer.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is one of a number of leading health centers in the US that now uses healing touch therapy. “Research has shown that patients who receive healing touch experience accelerated wound healing and relaxation, pain relief and general comfort,” said a spokesman.

From a biblical or spiritual point of view there are many verses that further support the notion that healing is conferred through touch. Really, far more than healing is transferred. Rather it is the anointing, defined as the spirt of God within us that is transferred. It is that transfer that is often associated with healing. The bible shows us that the anointing is both tangible and transferable. We see this when Jesus confronts the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-22. At the moment she touches him she is healed. In Matthew 8:1-3 His touch heals a leper. In Matthew 9: 28-30 He touches their eyes and the blind man’s vision is restored. In Luke 13: 10-13. “Then he put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up” and was healed. In Mark 5: 25-26 a woman is healed by touching His clothing. In Acts 19: 12 handkerchiefs and aprons that touched the apostle Paul were taken to the sick and they were healed.

I have just scratched the surface on this subject. If it interests you, much has been written on the scientific, secular and spiritual aspects of the relationship between touch and healing. Wound care is a specialty of medicine that requires lots of touch because of the requirement to do regular wound dressings. Nikki and I continue to believe in the power of touch at all levels.

“And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to Him and begged him to let the sick touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed”.

Matthew 14: 35-36