Massage Therapy for Trauma

We may experience trauma directly in our lives or feel the intense burden of the trauma covered in the news. Terrorist situations, severe weather, or gun violence happen around the country and the world and the weight of these events in the news affects us deeply. We may minimize our experiences with trauma, particularly if the trauma is connected to media coverage of a tragedy. It may feel like you should not rightfully feel the way you do, since these events did not directly happen to you. Do not diminish your feelings, we are all humans and feeling upset by the horrible events experienced by others is a natural reaction.

Trauma can cause many emotional, mental, and physiological symptoms in our bodies. Some of the most commonly felt are anxiety, hopelessness, an upset stomach, and a tendency to neglect self-care. Trauma can cause a withdrawal from social situations, a rejection of intimacy, or disturbing dreams and flashbacks. Surprisingly, you may feel numb or a dissociation with your body after experiencing a traumatic event. Addressing the symptoms of trauma can help lessen the physiological burden of the experience and help you lead a better life. Untreated, these symptoms of trauma can easily lead to issues with substance abuse, relationship problems, or depression.

Massage therapy can be a helpful tool after experiencing trauma. If you feel comfortable, communicate what you are feeling with your therapist to help them develop a plan of care for you. Massage therapy can help you feel more connected with your body if you are feeling numb or a dissociation from the events that occurred. Trauma from a physical violence or abuse can lead to a general discomfort with your body or touch. Massage therapy is a positive form of touch that can lead to you feeling more comfortable with intimate touch like a hug from your friend or holding hands with your spouse.

Massage therapy is an effective stress reliever since it reduces blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is pumped out by your adrenal glands in stressful situations. In small amounts and for short periods of time, cortisol can help you power through a difficult event. Lingering stress caused by trauma causes an excess of cortisol to build up in the blood, wreaking havoc on your body and leading to sleeplessness, anxiety, and an upset stomach. Massage can help manage how stressed you feel by lowering blood cortisol, with an average of a 31% reduction in cortisol levels. Massage therapy also increases serotonin levels, by 28% on average and levels of dopamine increase by 21%. Serotonin and dopamine are associated with a better outlook on life, feeling calm, less anxiety, and better sleep.

Whether you suffered a traumatic experience directly or are deeply troubled by recent events in the news, it is important that you take your symptoms seriously. They are real and need to be addressed. Talk with your healthcare provider or a counselor and make a plan for incorporating other therapies such as massage into your path to recovery.

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