Anyone who has ever given or received a massage can appreciate the importance of hands in massage therapy. Those attending massage schools, in Portland or elsewhere, can easily recognize that hands are the massage therapist’s most useful tool to convey healing and connection to the client. Our hands can transmit a variety of emotions. They can be used to love and nurture, to heal, and much more.

Indeed, University of California Berkeley research conducted under Dr. Dacher Keltner has found that humans can convey emotions through touch alone more than half the time. Kelter’s experiment separated participants by a barrier; they could not see or talk to each other. After a one-second touch to the forearm, the touch recipient was asked to guess the emotion the toucher intended to convey. Statistically, the chances of guessing the right answer were just 8%–but study participants guessed correctly 60% of the time when the emotion was compassion, and 50% of the time for anger.

Clearly, we use our hands to communicate. Below are ten amazing facts about our incredibly dexterous and healing hands. Those already engaged in massage careers will appreciate their primary instruments of healing—their hands—even more after reading this list.

Facts about Human Hands:

–There are around 29 major and minor bones in the human hand. This number is not universal; some of us actually have more or less bones then others.

–Only 10 to 15% of the entire human population is left-handed. Only one in one hundred are ambidextrous, meaning able to use both hands equally.

–The hands have 29 major joints, at least 123 ligaments, 34 muscles, 48 nerves and 30 arteries.

Nine individual muscles control the thumb; 3 major hand nerves control the thumb muscles.

–The fingers themselves have no muscles. Instead, the muscles that bend the fingers are located in the palm and mid-forearm; they are linked to the fingers through tendons.

–One quarter of the brain’s motor cortex, which is the area that controls all movement, is dedicated to moving the hand muscles.

–Only primates have hands. The 300 primate species include humans, apes, monkeys and prosimians (lemurs, lorises and tarsiers).

–Human hands are able to make grips that other primates, such as chimps and gorillas, cannot. This is because we have shorter hands and longer, more powerful thumbs then our primate relatives.

–Touch can increase the release of oxytocin. This “feel good hormone” is released during bonding activities.

–Holding hands has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Human hands are complex tools adapted over millions of years of evolution. Successful massage therapists and students on their way to receiving a massage license understand the power of the hands in the healing process. As referenced above, touch alone releases oxytocin. This chemical itself has been shown to refine communication skills, increase happiness levels, improve relationships, and boost levels of contentment, while decreasing stress and anxiety. Touch through hands is the massage therapist’s most powerful attribute to promote healing and wellness in others.

It’s no wonder, then, that taking care of one’s hands is a major focus of massage schools. Portland, OR students enrolled in East West College courses learn how to minimize repetitive motion injuries that can spell trouble for massage careers.

If you’re as fascinated with hands as we are, come take an introductory massage class. Once a month, we offer a massage basics class to give you a taste of what it is to deliver healing through your hands.