Massage & Trauma Healing
There are many benefits to massage therapy that we’re all familiar with, but there are also many that may seem unusual. One is that massage can support trauma healing and can contribute to a positive outcome both during and after trauma treatment.
Massage therapy can provide relief from physical, emotional, and mental stress, and decrease levels of depression, anxiety, irritability, and other symptoms associated with trauma exposure (Collinge, Kahn, & Soltysik, 2012). Massage therapy has also been found to help clients with PTSD-related dissociation to be more in touch with how certain emotions manifest in physical sensation, and experience comfort and safety in their body (Price, 2005).
Massage is particularly relevant to trauma treatment because traumatized individuals often suffer from hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance. In a state of stress and tension, their muscles may be constricted, and their bodies flooded with cortisol, a stress hormone that can be harmful with long-term exposure. Massage therapy has been shown to decrease cortisol levels while increasing hormones (serotonin and dopamine) associated with elevated mood. Massage therapy can also help to increase circulation, relieve some physical pain, and relax tensed muscles. This relaxation can enable traumatized people to let go of their fight or flight stress response and attain a calmer state of being, which can be helpful both in therapy and in navigating daily life (Hatayama, Kitamura, Tamura, Nagano, & Ohnuki, 2008).
At SOL SPA, The World’s First 24 Hour Day Spa, we have state of the art, zero gravity massage chairs that are completely customizable in an easy to use touch screen. This is important to mitigate the risk of a client feeling out of control of the situation and their body. Feeling comfortable while getting a massage is important for anyone, and especially for those who have previously been trauma-exposed, and for whom a bad-experience massage could be retraumatizing. Conversely, a good-experience massage can feel nurturing, another potential source of healing.
Massage’s benefits can support the psychotherapy client’s stability between sessions, as well as their ability to tolerate the trauma work during the therapy session. Furthermore, even after successful trauma healing, some people find that their hyper-arousal symptoms persist, and then massage therapy can be used to promote a new habit of calm and self-regulation.
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Written By: Paige Stuart, VP of Spa Operations