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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Touch Medicine - a complementary therapeutic approach exemplified by the treatment of depression

Mueller-Oerlinghausen, Bruno; Eggart, Michael; Norholt, Henrik; Gerlach, Michael; Kiebgis, Gabriele Mariell; Arnold, Michaela Maria; Moberg, Kerstin Uvnas


Skin-to-skin-contact presents the earliest sensory experience of men and animals. Deprivation of age-relevant touch experiences during infancy results in compromised psychosocial and biological development. The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded for the discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch. Clinical studies have demonstrated the benefit of professional salutary touch for prevention and treatment of various illnesses. However, in the present practice of medicine the application of salutary touch does not meet adequate interest. Proposing a new medical discipline "Touch Medicine" we link the findings of modern touch research to clinical medicine. The treatment of depression which we conceive primarily as a disease afflicting the body will serve as an example to demonstrate the usefulness of touch therapy. Controlled studies and systematic reviews have convincingly shown antidepressive, anxiolytic and analgesic effects of salutary touch. The effectiveness and efficacy of touch therapy has also been demonstrated in many areas such as neonatology, pediatrics, oncology, and geriatrics. We discuss the underlying mechanisms on various explanatory levels including interoceptive and oxytocinergic mechanisms as well as the role of C tactile afferent nerve fibers.


touch medicine; salutary touch; depression; pre-term infants; interoception; oxytocin; CT afferents; psychoactive massage therapy

Published in

Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift
2022, volume: 147, number: 04, pages: E32-E40

Authors' information

Mueller-Oerlinghausen, Bruno
Free University of Berlin
Eggart, Michael
University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten
Norholt, Henrik
Somatosensory & Affective Neuroscience Group
Gerlach, Michael
Hochgratklinik GmbH
Kiebgis, Gabriele Mariell
Praxis und Ausbildungszentrum für psychoaktive Massage
Arnold, Michaela Maria
Praxis für Naturheilkunde und Berührungsmedizin
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Clinical Medicine

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