Many people understand the benefits of Massage Therapy for physical injury and pain. However, massage can have a profound benefit for those dealing with deeper sources of anguish caused by trauma, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The power of touch through Massage Therapy goes beyond healing the muscles of the body; it can be a source of relief for those coping with the effects of traumatic events as well.
Massage Therapy and PTSD
Although not everyone who is coping with trauma has PTSD, understanding how Massage Therapy is beneficial to those with this disorder demonstrate how it can help anyone recovering from a traumatic event. PTSD victims have undergone a traumatic event where they or a loved one experienced physical or psychological harm, such as a violent attack, accident or disaster situation. Victims experience anxiety, depression and even physical pain long after the event, unable to disassociate the traumatic effects of the past event from the present and future. Massage can be part of the therapy process that helps these victims overcome their fear and pain.
Those with PTSD or anyone coping with a traumatic experience can experience a variety of benefits from Massage Therapy. One of most notable and measurable is the change in their brain chemistry. Cortisol, often called the stress hormone, is released when a person is undergoing stress. Decreases in cortisol, often with the release of the body’s feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine, help the body and brain relax. This relieves physical and emotional pain significantly. Research shows the correlation between reduced cortisol and increased serotonin and dopamine levels with massage therapy:
- A study of the effects of massage therapy was conducted on children with PTSD after Hurricane Andrew. Those who received massage therapy had an average of 30% lower cortisol levels after massage therapy as well as marked improvement in anxiety levels.
- A study of persons with Chronic Fatigue Disorder, commonly associated with PTSD, showed marked reductions in pain and fatigue in the group who received massage therapy over the control group. In addition, the groups average urine cortisol levels decreased 41% and their dopamine levels increased 21%.
This correlation of the change in the body and brain chemistry, along with reported improvements in anxiety, depression and pain for those undergoing Massage Therapy as part of their trauma, is wide spread. Whether someone is recovering from experiencing a traumatic event or has been diagnosed with PTSD, Massage Therapy can be instrumental in helping people overcome their symptoms.