Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Skin as a Social Organ. Part 2a: Different kinds of touch

The paper, The skin as a social organ

Previous introductory blogpost to this series.
Preamble: Random thoughts on spas

Part 1: Dual nature of touch: as PTs, do we "get" this? Part 1a: Touch can be pleasant, rilling Part 1b: Vallbo on C-tactiles

So, time to start tackling the section of the paper titled, Touch in affiliative behavior and communication.
The first paragraph, divided by me into numbered sentences:

"The most salient nonsexual, positively hedonic forms of social touch can be tentatively divided into categories.
"1. ‘‘Simple’’ touch involves brief, intentional contact to a relatively restricted location on the body surface of the receiver during a social interaction; the person who pats the hand of the little old lady on the bus or gently touches the waiter’s elbow while making a request is engaging in ‘‘simple’’ touch.
"2. ‘‘Protracted’’ touch involves longer and often mutual skin-to-skin contact between individuals, and usually includes a component of pressure, for example embracing, holding hands, and cuddling.
"3. Finally, ‘‘dynamic’’ touch involves continuous movement over the skin from one point to another, and can often be repetitious, as in stroking, rubbing, and caressing.
"4. Tickling presents an additional special category, which is associated with playful behavior (especially with children) and is not likely to occur in the context of everyday interactions."

So, I wonder which of their categories grooming for stress and pain reduction would fall into?

The way I do manual therapy is, I think, based on this little category list, a cross between "protracted" and "dynamic." It isn't brief, like "simple touch," and no tickling is involved..

It's "protracted" in that I sit in one place for awhile, until I feel different output in that place, then move on. It's certainly not mutual physical contact however.. I am paid to be the toucher, not the touchee
Not that the patient's brain isn't hard at work feeling me touching its organism's nerves.
Not that it isn't busy incorporating me into its representational maps, as it would a white cane if it were a blind person, feeling the sidewalk through one.
Not that it isn't taking the opportunity to refresh its own maps of its own temporarily less-painful "body."
Just that no one has their hands on my skin.

It's "dynamic" in that once I feel a slowing down or stopping of any further "busy-ology" going on under my hands through my fingers, I move on to a new place. Sometimes I add some finger flutter type of provocation to skin, just to see what the nervous system is going to do in response. I guess this would be the equivalent of fly fishing, where you throw in the lure, then wiggle it a bit, to see if you can entice anything to come over and investigate. But I don't slide around over skin.. I try to distort it, lengthen it while holding onto to it, not slide over it.
I figure I'm engaging Ruffini's when I do that. Sometimes I even use Dycem, as I have small hands, and sometimes skin can be dry, or slippery, or so firmly attached that it's hard to deform it at all.

I think they should have added a 5th category, touch done with the intent to relive nociceptive input. Anti-nociceptive touch.


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