“Healing does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.”
– Akshay Dubay
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The sad fact is, that trauma is all around us. Millions of people are currently suffering with the condition, and the majority of cases go untreated. When suffers do seek treatment, the mainstream methods of medical care involve psychiatric therapy and, often, prescription drugs to ease anxiety, depression and sleepless nights.
The staff at the Mayo Clinic tell us: “Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.”
For more in-depth information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder visit the Mayo Clinic website.
So, how does massage work to combat PTSD?
To me, being a massage therapist, the answer is quite simple: massage enables the mind and body to enter a state of deep relaxation. Once we’re able to achieve relaxation, we can more easily re-enter that state and have it relay into the long-term. This will seep into every aspect of life, allowing us to heal and find peace of mind.
Personally, I’ve experienced a massive decrease in anxiety and depression through massage, though I’ve never had PTSD or known someone with it, so I cannot tell you how effective it is. However, holistic therapist Fortunato, who shared his findings with the Mayo Clinic, has seen the effects first-hand with war veterans. He states:
“In order to stay alive, their bodies have been hyperaroused for so long, that they come back and cannot turn it off. Their body doesn’t even remember how to relax again, and because of that they don’t sleep and are irritable. … massage has helped soldiers sleep.”
A study on the effects of massage shows us what’s happening within the brain post-massage. The 2005 study proved positive changes in biochemistry following massage therapy. This included reduced cortisol and increased serotonin and dopamine. By decreasing the clients’ cortisol levels with bodywork, a client can reduce the constant feelings of hyperarousal and danger. By increasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain, an ease of suffering and anxiety is felt.
Sexual abuse victims have also overcome their PTSD symptoms with the help of massage in combination with psychotherapy. The Journal of Bodywork and Movement conducted a study to examine the effects of body-oriented therapy, alongside psychotherapy, for women in recovery from childhood sexual abuse.
The experiment involved eight 1-hour weekly sessions of body-oriented therapy, a combination of bodywork and the emotional processing of psychotherapy. The study examined changes in somatic and psychological symptoms, and the subjective experience of the intervention using a mixed method approach. Qualitative results revealed the positive impact of body-oriented therapy on sense of inner security and psychotherapeutic progress.
With sexual abuse victims, it’s not only about enabling them to enter into a relaxed a state, but also encouraging their association of human touch as a positive experience. The more often they receive professional tactile treatment such as massage, the more often they can mark off yet another positive experience in their subconscious, helping to outweigh any fear and overcome active avoidance in being touched.
There’s a well-known quote which comes to mind, said by a practicing massage therapist who’s name eludes me. Their beautiful words ring true to what holistic practitioners aim to achieve with each and every client. “Massage is so much more than just working muscles. I integrate modalities, and listen to your body. Give me a chance to help you heal yourself. Your body and soul contains all the wisdom necessary – I just facilitate the action.”
At the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer online courses in both Holistic Massage Therapy and Psychotherapy & Counselling, amongst 55 other holistic therapy courses. Enrol with us to secure an internationally recognised diploma with an 80% pass mark or higher, entitling you to practice. Our distance-training method allows you to learn at your own pace, following your own schedule, in a no-stress environment.
We’re passionate about making life-changing education accessible and affordable, but don’t let us speak for ourselves, hear what our students have to say on our testimonials page. For any enquiries, contact us here, we’d love to hear from you! We can even send you course snippets if you’d like a more in-depth look at what we offer.