The Healing Hug

Touch  is healing, whether it be from a significant other, or a friend, or even a pet. Whenever there is touch, skin to skin stroking, hug, our body produces more of the "feel good" endorphin, oxytocin. A small pat on the back a sweet hug from someone you care about or a pat on the knee, can decrease your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, slow your respiration rate, lowers your stress levels  and yet so many people are in such a hurry today, that it is the part of human contact that often gets left out.

I remember a patient in home health I went to see one afternoon, Ms. Elsie. I had a tight schedule that day, and had already been put behind my schedule because one patient had taken a little longer than I had expected, we ran into a train at an intersection and when we went on the bridge from West MOnroe, to Monroe, well, it was "up" for a boat to get under. I got out of my car and reviewed what was going to happen that day with the intentions of not getting further behind. I donned my lab coat and gathered my equipment and went to the door. Ms. Elsie greeted me and she looked so pretty that day.

She came to the door with a beautiful red and white blouse and white slacks that just seemed to accent her wavy white hair . She looked like the picture perfect granny. I proceeded to ask her how she was and getting out my equipment to check her vital signs, a knock came at the door. Her friend answered it and it was the exterminator. A nice young man, who stops at Ms. Elsie and begins to ask her how she was and she asked him and then she asked about his family, all the time the clock is ticking. I know I have 2 more patients to see, and they don't live close by. I know one will call the office if I am more than 10 min. late. and here I am waiting on Ms. Elsie and the exterminator.

Eventually they complete their conversation and I can continue with our physical therapy visit. We begin to instruct her in exercises and as we finish our 2nd exercise, the exterminator comes to tell Ms. Elsie that he his finished and looked at me and asked if he could give her a hug. I thought, sure, I am late anyway, a little frustrated at how much farther behind I am getting. He hugs her and leaves.  I finish our visit with her and leave.

At first I was frustrated, but when I got to the car, and I had time to reflect, I began to realize that the hug and conversation with that exterminator probably did her more good than anything I did with her that day. He made her feel important, he hugged her and helped her to elicit more endorphins, he was the reason of any progress that day.

So often we forget, that simple touch, can do as much as all the exercises you have been planning to do that day. A simple touch, will often elicit more cooperation from our patients, a simple touch can be healing for our patients. The next time you go see your patient , talk with them, listen to then and give them a non-judgemental therapeutic touch and see if it doesn't make a difference for them.--E. Anne Melvin, PT