Childhood Trauma and Massage

Trauma is a “stressful event or events that are ongoing or unpredictable that result in overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, and helplessness”. Trauma can be caused by natural disasters/events (like tornadoes, earthquakes, fire, flood, explosion) or physical, psychological or emotional injury caused by abuse, neglect and/or willful misconduct.

Everyone responds to traumatic events differently.  Children, for example, sometimes deal with trauma is they simply freezing and become unresponsive, their “fight or flight” basic instincts are engaged.  Hearts pump, breathing goes rapid and shallow, hands perspire, stomachs tighten.  Children lack the ego strengths and cognitive emotional inhibitors necessary to cope with trauma, so they respond with physical hyper-arousal (like ADHD), emotional numbing or reactivity, startle responses, all which can lead to neuro-endocrine abnormalities and developmental delays.

In adults, response to trauma can include aches and pains like headaches & backaches, sudden sweating or heart palpitations, changes in sleep patterns, enhanced startle reflex, fear, anxiety, grief, hyper-alertness, irritability, mood swings, shame, guilt and more.  It’s pretty clear that trauma has significant impact on physical and emotional wellness.

Long term effects

In some cases, in both children and adults, trauma can lead to PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) which manifests itself in flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or nightmares, avoidance and emotional numbing, and physical symptoms like elevated heart rate. Those symptoms can be long lasting.

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Massage Therapy for Military Veterans

militaryMassage can have a significant affect on the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and self compassion.

Research published in Military Medicine reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage.

The National Guard commissioned a study about the effects of massage on veteran reintegration.  The results are promising. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

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