All people experience trauma at some time in their lives. For people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), their reactions to the trauma continue to be present instead of resolving over time. Symptoms include hyperarousal, hypervigilance, guilt, shame, dissociation, and intrusive thoughts among others. Many feel stressed, anxious, tightness in their muscles, and disconnected from the moments they are experiencing even when they are no longer in danger. According to PTSD United, approximately 24.4 million people are dealing with PTSD at any given time. PTSD can develop through serving in the military, abuse, neglect, bullying, and after an accident. While this short list highlights common traumas, it is not all inclusive.
Pamela Fitch, massage therapist and author of Talking Body, Listening Hands: A Guide to Professionalism, Communication and the Therapeutic Relationship states,
“People experience PTSD when their choices over what happens to their bodies are taken from them. When actions are taken that they have no control over, then no place or person feels safe. Add to this the context of how a person was loved or not loved, and the more strikes against them, the harder it is to overcome the trauma.”
Treatment for PTSD requires an integrative approach including counseling, coping skills, art, medication, yoga or Thai Chi, and even massage. It is important to stress integrating massage into a treatment regiment for PTSD should be considered after some time is spent working through the trauma with a mental health professional. Finch states, “If clients with PTSD seek massage therapy before they have done some reflection with a psychotherapist, they could be at risk of worsening their symptoms, becoming triggered by the touch, or feeling depressed or angry.” When ready for massage, the benefits are prevalent.
Numerous studies point to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Veteran reintegration through integrative therapies yielded participants who received massage reported significant reduction in pain, tension, irritability, anxiety or worry, and depression. Dissociation lessens as massage therapy clients experience a more cohesive, coherent sense of self attained through treatments. It is imperative to note, while symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have been shown to lessen, any person not comfortable with being touched should carefully weigh the benefits with the potential increase in anxiety.
Our therapists welcome the opportunity to work with people living with PTSD. We do ask that all clients provide us with a health history, discuss their physical symptoms (stress, tension, pain), and address any areas they would prefer not be touched during their sessions. This information is used to create a treatment plan to best serve your needs.
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- William Collinge, MPH, Ph.D., Janet Kahn, Ph.D., LMT, and Robert Soltysik, MS. Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: a pilot study, Mil Med. 2012 Dec; 177(12): 1477–1485.
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- Price CJ. Dissociation reduction in body therapy during sexual abuse recovery. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2007;13(2): 116–28.