Touch changes our body’s chemistry. There are many areas of the brain that are activated when someone else touches us, in particular the area that has to do with discerning people's intentions. Receptors in the skin tell us what kind of touch it is; should we relax or spring to action?
In research projects with animals who received no touch or minimal touch, many died or suffered long term damage like:
Underdeveloped immune systems
Reduced body growth
Areas of the brain showed reduced volume
Physical contact stimulates growth by activating sensors and impulses that release signals that activate growth promoting processes in other nerve cells.
During massage brain waves slow down inducing a profound state of relaxation similar to sleep. The brain becomes less active and sends changes in hormones that as a result will change the body.
Endorphins are released ( known as happiness hormones) as well as oxytocin (which encourages the feelings of closeness). This is why touch is more comforting than words. Oxytocin increases the need for closeness.
Massage is medicinal to the brain, body and nervous system by encouraging new neural pathway production. Nerves in the skin respond optimally to slow and gentle touch. So for those of you out there telling your massage therapist you like pain with your deep tissue keep in mind that safe and gentle touch in conjunction is really important to get the most health benefits.