Trauma and Emotional Pain: How does Massage and Bodywork help?
Most people don’t seek out massage and bodywork until they get sick or start hurting. What they may not realize is that it is usually emotional and mental challenges that underlie the onset of physical pain and illness. Body centered therapies such as therapeutic massage and CranioSacral Therapy activate the parasympathetic nervous system, quiet the fight-or-flight responses and reduce pain, stress, emotional and mental health issues. Studies have shown that bodywork decreases cortisol (a stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine (feel-good hormones). Imbalances in these hormones can be caused by stress, trauma, grief, loss, illness and injury.
This article, published by the International Journal of Neuroscience, documents scientific research showing that massage decreased stress hormones & increased neurotransmitters. The studies found a significant decrease in cortisol (average 31%) and significant increases in serotonin (average 28%). In this fascinating study, researchers looked at depression (including sex abuse and eating disorder studies), pain syndrome studies, research on autoimmune conditions (including asthma and chronic fatigue), immune studies (including HIV and breast cancer), and stress on the job, the stress of aging, and pregnancy stress.
Integrative Bodywork recognizes that pain and trauma affect the whole person: body mind and spirit. Many traditional therapists, including MDs, mental health professionals, and even some massage therapists, treat body, mind and spirit with completely separate tools. Integrative bodywork does not separate.
Bessell Van Der Kolk, one of the nations leading experts on PTSD and trauma recovery, recommends including massage, craniosacral therapy, yoga and other integrative body therapies in mental health treatment plans for PTSD. He writes, in his groundbreaking book “The Body Keeps the Score, “you can’t fully recover if you don’t feel safe in your skin”. In other words, as so many massage therapists know very well, touch heals.
From my clinical experience I noticed that massage and bodywork is particularly helpful for increasing clients body awareness, which is essential for healing because trauma, anxiety and stress usually generates disconnection by effecting the prefrontal cortex; the center of mindfulness. Unlike other forms of therapy, clients are not coming to be “fixed”, but to have a qualified practitioner hold a healing space that allows their nervous systems to self correct.
How to find a practitioner
Above all else, find a practitioner you feel comfortable with. There are many therapists to choose from, so take your time and make sure you can trust them and the space they provide. You might connect best with therapists who exhibit qualities of nurturing, empathy and intuition.
Looks for therapists who have all or most of the following qualifications.
- Advanced training & experience
- Professional boundaries
- Certifications & credentials
- Adaptable: practice a variety of modalities
- Know how to listen to clients
- Experience with trauma or mental illness
- Mindfulness training or spiritual practice
- Knowledgeable about local resources
- Willing and able to refer or work in partnership with other professionals
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take some time to talk with any massage therapists and body workers you are considering. Let them know any fears, concerns, hopes and goals you have, and if you are working with a therapist or health practitioner already. Don’t rush any part of the process. Deep and lasting healing from emotional pain will take patience, time and a commitment from both you and your practitioners, and it will be worth it.
Awaken Integrative Bodywork uses gentle touch, light to moderate pressure, deep listening and mindfulness practices to help the brain and body re-connect in a safe, therapeutic environment. Some of our modalities are CranioSacral Therapy, Integrative Massage, Intuitive & Energy Work, Thai Massage and prenatal massage. We also offer a unique deep tissue and sports massage that is gentle as well as effective. For a free consultation with Awaken Integrative Bodywork, located in beautiful Auburn, CA call Jessica Gutierrez at 530-906-8668.
“The Wound is Where the Light Enters You”- Rumi
“My experience with Jessica is one for the record books, and I will most definitely continue to seek her guidance in my healing journey. I am still glowing from the release and rejuvenation provided in her loving care. I am filled with gratitude.+” ~Jasmine, Auburn CA
“I received a Craniosacral body work session from Jessica yesterday. My session was deeply transformative, restful, and rejuvenating. I literally felt tension dissolving out my body. I left feeling pain free, more grounded, and with an elevated sense of wellness and ease. Jessica was very attentive and professional in her intake process and throughout our entire session. If you are looking for an outstanding body worker, Jessica is ideal. She is impassioned about her work, is constantly educating herself in the field, and has a caring and compassionate heart. I highly recommend her” ~ Karen W, Auburn CA
“Recently I had a session and I am new to the area, so it was my first time. AB SO LUTELY LOOOOOOVED IT!!! 🙂
Jessica is amazing and sweet and very empathetic and her work is amazing! Personally, I am going through A LOT and Jessica was able to calm me and center me, which I didn’t think would be possible due to my situation(s). Her therapeutic work is truly like no other! Highly recommend!! :)”~Heather, Auburn CA
“My experience with Jessica is that she is a highly skilled intuitive healer. I recommend her for anyone looking for a relaxing rejuvenating healing experience for mind body and soul.” ~Nicky M, Grass Valley, CA