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Never Underestimate the Power of Gentle Touch

Touch me not

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Gentle touch may be described as massage, soft tissue mobilization, craniosacral therapy, or a number of other modalities.  These modalities are often overlooked even by myself who uses them daily.  I recently had an opportunity to remember their importance with two patients.

Patient #1: She had been treated last fall for neck and back pain as well as chronic headache.  She had taken the month of January off and was scheduled to resume PT on February 1st.  She called to cancel her appointment stating she’d fallen and hit her head on the ice suffering a concussion.  I suggested we try some craniosacral therapy.  She phoned me 30 minutes after her session to tell me how much better she felt.  Craniosacral therapy uses the force of 5 grams or the weight of a nickel to release fascial restrictions within the skull.  The fascia supports the brain tissue and is subject to trauma.  After  2 treatments when she had started feeling better, she tried to go for her usual 3 mile walk.  This resulted in her feeling really badly the following day.  In my office at her next treatment,  I was able to show her a model of the skull with the large fascial membranes inside.  These membranes move a great deal with simple activities like walking which is likely why she felt worse the next day.  She has not returned to walking yet, but at her last visit reported her first “normal” nights sleep in 2 weeks!

Patient #2: She was referred to me for treatment of chronic daily headache and migraine since the age of 12.  Now in her 60s, she also reported that she didn’t like her head to be touched.  I informed her that I doubted that I would be able to completely eliminate her headaches without using craniosacral therapy which would require me to touch her head.  We proceeded with her treatment, choosing to use gentle soft tissue mobilization to treat the extreme muscle tightness in  her neck and thoracic spine.  After 2 treatments only working on the soft tissue of her neck and thoracic spine, she reported that her headaches/migraines occur only 1-2x/wk vs daily.

These are only 2 brief examples of success with soft touch and certainly do not apply to all patients, but they have been a powerful reminder to me that sometimes less is more!

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached at 290-5575 for questions or on the web at


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