The Therapeutic Power of Touch

We experience the power of touch when we take our first breath and enter this world. Upon leaving our mother’s body we experience the sensation of being touched by another human being; something so powerful and vitally important, that as humans, we’re unable to develop and thrive without it.

The benefits of personal touch from one human to another, in a world where we’ve never before been so connected technically, are far-reaching. The comfort of a hug, a pat on the back, or a gentle squeeze of the hand convey so much; our bodies crave it when we go without touch for long periods of time. The fact is, we cannot flourish emotionally or physically without it.

Within our lives, there are many different ways we can experience touch. One of those is via therapeutic massage. The de-stressing effect of a body massage can help to nourish the soul, soothe aching limbs and help to slowly unknot tight muscle fibres in our body. Facial massage techniques, applied with precision and care, can nurture tired faces, stimulate the blood supply and provide a feel-good factor element that’s simply wonderful.

I want to tell you about how it feels to live with a diagnosis of cancer and to be told that you cannot be touched via therapeutic massage because it ‘might spread your cancer’. Imagine that……? Thankfully, it’s not the advice that’s given by an oncologist; that’s quite the opposite actually. Oncologists recognise the benefits, on both a physical and emotional level, that patients experience when accessing massage treatment.

(N.B. Tumour sites and areas of recent surgery/radiotherapy treatment must be avoided).

Being refused a massage treatment on these grounds has happened to me on many occasions in recent years: times when I’ve been on a spa break with girlfriends, times when I’ve been celebrating a friend’s special birthday and during periods in my life when I’ve been most in need of some relaxation and me-time.  On one occasion, whilst my friends were all able to enjoy a relaxing body or facial massage, I was confined to the nail bar where I was ‘allowed’ to have a coating of polish on my chemotherapy ravaged nails (that now don’t grow like they used to because the cells in the nail matrix where new nail cells grow, have been permanently damaged by chemotherapy). I don’t have enough fingers on which to count, just how many times I’ve been given this ridiculous, myth-based reason for not being allowed to have a body massage or facial. It made me feel angry, upset and isolated.

Well thankfully, that lonely landscape is changing because the beauty and spa industry are finally been taught that for somebody diagnosed with cancer or undergoing cancer treatment, it’s actually OK, indeed beneficial, for that person to receive massage treatment. This comes with the proviso that the therapist has the confidence, skills and knowledge to be able to carry out the treatment professionally, with appropriate communication skills and the ability to make the client feel like a human being and not a ‘cancer patient’.

Enter ‘tpot’, otherwise known as The Power of Touch. Launched in 2014 by Michelle Hammond, her vision has created a fundamental and much-needed change in attitude towards the treatment of beauty and spa clients who have experienced a cancer diagnosis. Tpot training provides therapists with the necessary skills and knowledge to treat this client group, in which I firmly sit, with compassion and a desire to eliminate misunderstanding, myth and taboo.

A few weeks ago, I had the total pleasure of experiencing a full body massage provided by the delightful, tpot trained, Louise, at the newly refurbished Ingleby Barwick Bannatyne Spa .  The Bannatyne Group has invested heavily in the refurbishment of their spas nationally.   Part of that investment is a collaboration with tpot and a commitment to ensuring each of the spas within the Group have therapists who have undergone the specialist training that tpot provides.

The whole experience from start to finish was first class. Louise immediately made me feel at ease with her relaxed yet confident manner; entering the treatment room found me walking into a cocoon of comfort and wellbeing. Dimmed lighting, relaxing music and a divinely comfortable massage bed all added to the serene ambience. A big plus, was that the treatment room was heated to an appropriate temperature so that I didn’t feel cold when I undressed.

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Louise wasn’t fazed by any of the scars on my body. She talked with me at ease, and maturity that belied her years,about my cancer experience. I felt completely relaxed and in well-trained hands.

The SLOW tpot massage techniques that Louise used during my treatment worked effectively to relax my peripheral nervous system, providing a feeling of wellbeing and calm. Applied in a regular, rhythmical fashion, the massage techniques allowed the tension in my back and neck to ease considerably.  Overall, each aspect of my treatment session was carried out with professionalism and importantly, compassion – an important ‘c’ word when treating somebody who has had a cancer diagnosis.

I want to say ‘thank you’ to Louise and give a big shout out to the Ingleby Barwick Bannatyne Spa. Your tpot trained staff provide a much-needed solution to something that’s long been a problem; I hope more people like me can experience therapeutic massage in a spa setting without facing stigma, ignorance and being told ‘no’. The power of touch benefits us all.

Onwards and upwards!

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