By Gerry Pyves, NO HANDS Founder & Creator
In a world of marketing manipulations, is science all we can trust?
I recently had an enquiry about whether my work (which I use both clinically and teach to therapists on courses) can be used to treat Transverse Myelitis (TM). As Massage Therapists it is vital we stay within our scope of practice and not claim cure (or, indeed, attempt to diagnose). However, it raised an interesting issue around our society’s reliance on science as the touchstone for truth. Even in these days of “fake news”. So I thought you might value the response I sent…
Dear Eleanor (name changed for privacy)
There is no specific scientific data regarding the impact of the Touch movements I use on Transverse Myelitis (TM). I can say that the Mayo clinic reports that physiotherapy and psychotherapy both help this condition and that indicates there could well be a connection between the state of the autonomic nervous system and TM. As my approach targets soothing the nervous system, there could well be benefits for people with this (and many other) conditions. However, the level of pain and discomfort they are in may also contra-indicate touch and bodywork. Much would depend on their response to touch – people vary so much.
In my own theoretical model, the level of hidden or suppressed trauma that the nervous system is carrying can have a multitude of different expressions in both physical and mental health problems. For this reason, I would be very surprised if someone with TM did not show some relief and improvement from receiving the type of bodywork that I am pioneering, but I have no personal experience of treating someone with this condition.
The simple reality is that this material has yet to be scientifically researched. It could take a further 10 years (or more) before we have the resources to do this properly. In the meantime, those I am teaching this to, and clients of my own, are reporting amazing results across a broad spectrum of physical and mental conditions, already. Today.
It is the powerful response of my own clients and the clients of those I have already taught this approach to that has caused me to ‘go on the road’ and share this material
with as many bodyworkers as possible. I am hoping to start our first study into how this approach raises overall resilience next year, once I have enough willing bodyworkers to participate with me in this study. After that I wish to look at specific conditions like fibromyalgia, depression and ME.
It is my experience that most inflammatory conditions of the viscera and nervous system respond well to the calming and soothing touch that I focus on. This is because we are influencing the nervous system to engage the ventral vagus and other cranial nerves. Dropping the automomic nervous system into ventral vagus tone has been linked to a rise in Heart Rate Variability which is becoming one of the most effective indicators for an overall improvement across many body/mind conditions.
The evidence for this is coming out of the PolyVagal work of Dr. Stephen Porges
and the very latest neuroscience studies. These are well documented in Stanley Rosenberg’s “Accessing the healing Power of the Vagus Nerve” (North Atlantic Books 2017 pp 69-71).
I hope this helps.
End of response
Culturally we have been taught to give weight to the quantitative (that which can be counted, measured and expressed in numbers) and to discount the qualitative (that which is descriptive and contextual). I am incredibly grateful to the scientists working to understand the benefits of Touch through quantitative research. I find myself discovering recent studies which back up what I’ve been seeing in my treatment and training rooms for years, even decades – which encourages me to continue in this incredible work with Touch. But my true reality are the words of my clients: the differences I witness in them and the changes they report to me.
As bodyworkers, there are aspects of our work that can be measured quantitatively – but for me that misses 99% of what makes up a human, and 99% of the effectiveness of a treatment. We must stay safe – for ourselves and our clients. And we also need to be the flag-bearers for a therapy which has been used for millenia and is so desperately needed in today’s world: Touch.