PTSD and Bodywork

In participating in the Hands For Heroes program I have become more familiar with some of the issues of our active and retired military personal. These issues have covered everything from money to lighting in the room at the time of service. Today I wanted to share something that I was aware of and had some limited training in as a massage therapist and that is the treatment of those with diagnosed PTSD. For those of you that are not aware PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder consult primary information sources before reading on. The Veterans Affairs has a number of resources as well as private councilors in your area. 

As many of you have found out over time getting bodywork that it is a very personal service that is performed. It leaves you in a somewhat vulnerable state (undressed, with someone who is not a lover, family member, or trusted friend this can cause anxiety among other feelings. Yet we can take this idea even further if you consider the idea of personal space and/or modesty preferences. Year after year I look at the “State of the Industry Report” put out by a trade publication every year (this is common in many trade publications) and we find constantly the number one concern of why people are not getting bodywork is cost and number two is personal feelings about physical contact with the therapist. Oddly enough the idea of massage being a “socially perceived luxury” and therefore could be perceived by others and indicating a “waste” or “self centered” act also constantly ranks very high.

During my training as a massage therapist the school took the time (thoughtfully) to bring in experts in working with “special populations” (I hate the term but it is meant to denote the idea of not the majority of scheduled services). The general idea was how to be considerate of those who have suffered substantial medical problems, rape survivor, child abuse trauma, and other similar situations and still provide a place a dignity and trust between the therapist and the client. I would consider it some of the most valuable training I ever received because it does not teach the therapist to treat people with kid gloves but to empower people through trust building in the most shuttle of ways to ensure a great service.

So you might ask after all this crap in the last three paragraphs what am I getting at here? The answer is that even though I got the training and have practiced much of it during my years as a therapist is that my depth of understand of PTSD has improved a great deal thanks in no small part by the willingness of those living with PTSD trying bodywork on my table with me. I want to bring the idea to the table that done right PTSD can be treated (in concert with other medical professional) with bodywork to improve peoples lives. 

Bodywork and help those with PTSD practice socialization and relationship (professional) building skills needed to function in the civilian world. Sometimes massage therapist find that when you touch some areas of the body it can't give a person a emotional reaction with many people you tend to hear that there's a mind-body connection this would be proof of that idea. The idea being that has a bodyworker we can help the emotional states of people that only when they are relaxing on the table when we are working out physical injuries or concerns which they have a specific request for attention in that area. 

If you suffer with PTSD or you know someone that may be suggest a session of bodywork with a trained professional. Obviously this is no substitute for mental health professionals or for a medical doctors assessment but it can't be an avenue of treatment. This should be a reminder to us all that when individuals have been in trauma that the scars are long-lasting and that is ongoing treatment that is necessary we must then support them long-term. In many circumstances these people have chosen to go into harms way to protect the rest of us from the horse that life can offer and then our gratitude and respect and support is necessary not pitty or charity. One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life as a bodyworker is that when people are in pain Weather it be mental or physical that condition lessens the dignity in which they carry out their lives and we should do our best not to further deteriorate that dignity which they want so much to regain with health.