Massage for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Statistics state that nearly 70% of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event in their life, with 20% of those going on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Traumatic events can include War, Terrorism, Violence and Abuse, and disasters. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life. PTSD isn't just psychological, it creates biological changes within the body as well.
How can massage and lymphatic therapy help?
According to Western medicine, as well as recent studies by trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, MD the symptoms of PTSD are the result of imbalances in brain chemicals triggered by emotional stress. These chemicals, including neurotransmitters such as serotonin, affect behavior, feelings and cognition. By reliving the traumatic event, people with PTSD are always in a heightened state of anxiety. The brain is unable to turn off the “Fight or Flight” response, and their bodies are constantly flooded with stress hormones that cause not only emotional, but physical pain, as muscles are constantly tensed for action. Massage therapy and other bodywork such as Reiki, or Tui Na, can not only relax tensed muscles and ease the physical pain, they can trigger the body’s relaxation response, breaking the cycle of fight or flight. When lymphatic drainage is added to a massage it removes excess adrenaline and it's resulting stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to inflammation.
Massage therapy is an excellent addition to an overall treatment plan for sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Once a person is able to relax through massage, circulation improves, sleep patterns can return to normal, and a more relaxed patient is more open to other modalities such as talk therapy that can help them resolve the issues at the root of his or her PTSD.
Those who think they may have PTSD should contact a medical or psychological professional for an official diagnosis. As massage can often trigger memories and feelings, the client should be in psychotherapy treatment to discuss these things as they come up. As treatment progresses the goal is not just to momentarily relax the body, but to break the cycle of chemical overload and intrusive memories and feelings, through talk therapy and massage therapy. Once that cycle is broken a full manual lymphatic treatment is done to help the body remove excess hormones and chemicals that have become toxic.