A Need for Touch: The Power of Rolling & Hugging
By Dr. Darrien Jamar
When is the last time you witnessed a baby or child rolling? Maybe, if you are a patient at Got Your Back Total Health, you have not only witnessed others rolling, but you have been caught in the act yourself. Why roll? What is the big deal? We are glad you asked! The skin is our largest sensory organ, containing approximately 640,000 sensory receptors (essentially, areas for talking to the brain) that are tied to our spinal cord through 500,000 or more neural pathways. (1) Whenever you are touched, whether through rolling or a warm hug from someone you love, your skin is being stimulated, which then sends information up to your brain by creating new or maintaining old neural connections. Skin that lacks stimulation is starving the brain because there is no information being sent. Let’s think about this another way.
You may recall Harry Harlow’s, an American Psychologist, experiment of maternal separation with rhesus monkeys. Harlow placed infant rhesus monkeys in a cage with surrogate mothers and watched their responses. One surrogate mother was clothed, providing comfort and no milk; the wire mother (lacking comfort) providednutrients through milk. (2) Harlow observed the infant monkeys taking the milk from the wire mother, while remaining clutched to the cloth mother at the same time. This informed us that not only do monkeys (and humans) seek to fulfill their basic need of hunger, but we also have a deeper longing for comfort, for touch. We see this in children who receive proper nourishment, but if they lack love and touch they suffer the same affects as a malnourished child, such as poor muscle coordination, a weakened immune system, retarded bone growth, and an overall sense of weakness. (1) A more recent studyat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the touch of a human releases chemicals that activates a deep sense of relaxation, principally serotonin, causing our blood pressure and heart rate to decrease. (3)
What is your view of rolling now? Has it shifted a bit? You see, not only does rolling provide our brains and nervous system with vital nutrients, but it also provides nourishment for our emotional, mental, and hormonal health. We hope you not only roll today, but that you might give someone the gift of a hug, spreading the power and comfort of love.
- Pressing Reset: Restoring the Body through Movement (North Carolina: Original Strength Systems, 2007), 21-23.
- Vicedo M. Mothers, machines, and morals: harry harlow’s work on primate love from lab to legend. J Hist Behavioral Sci. 2009;45(3):193-218.
- Mango A. “25 (scientific) happiness hacks.” CNN, January 22, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2016/01/22/health/happiness-hacks/index.html