PTSD is characterized by nightmares, flashbacks, certain triggers that precipitate a severe emotional reaction, insomnia, inability to feel joy, trouble concentrating, being easily startled, avoidance of crowds, and a myriad of other symptoms that severely diminish a persons quality of life.
Studies have proven that hand/foot reflexology, auricular acupressure, somatic therapies, massage therapy and other types of bodywork are very beneficial to easing both the physical and emotional pain associated with PTSD.
Reflexology works directly with the endocrine system to calm down the adrenaline response that engages during a PTSD attack. Auricular (ear) acupressure works with the endocrine system & can help alleviate these symptoms as well. Somatic forms of bodywork have been tested for efficacy and were found to help reduce PTSD significantly because it addresses root cause. Massage therapy engages the muscles and the central nervous system in a calming way to allow your body to calm down. However, what can you do when your PTSD is severe enough that touch is a trigger in and of itself? Unfortunately, it is quite common for rape, assault & military PTSD sufferers to be uncomfortable with the touch from massage, even though it is very safe and therapeutic.
This is where Hand, Foot, Auricular (Ear) Reflexology and Somatic Bodywork come in. They are all modalities that are done with the actual trauma and root cause in mind. Somatic therapies were created to work directly with PTSD as a specialty form of bodywork. Even though somatic bodywork dates back over 60 years in America & 1000's of years in the Asian traditions, it is only now becoming mainstream and research is showing more and more that this has been the missing link in working with PTSD.
Reflexologists are also specializing in how to work with PTSD in order to help alleviate symptoms and address the endocrine system to rebalance it. Reflexology is based on ancient Chinese acupressure points that stimulate your body in a way that promotes deep relaxation. These points trigger your nervous system, sending it a message to relax, causing your body to enter the mode known as “rest and digest.” In this place, real physical and emotional healing can occur.
Somatic Trauma Release is also a modality that can help with root cause by sending messages to the brain which helps alleviate PTSD. Somatic Trauma Release uses verbal cues, touch and, when appropriate, acupressure points to work with the physiology and emotional bodies after a trauma. Because Somatic Trauma Release works directly with the emotional body, physiology, trauma event/events which created the PTSD to begin with, it significantly helps clients. It's important to work with both the physiological body and the emotional body after trauma occurs. Trauma affects our minds, body and spirit. Not just one or the other. Somatic Trauma Release takes a multi-disciplined level working with all three.
People suffering from PTSD should always work with bodywork professionals that are trained and understands trauma. A trained professional will know how to work through triggers, balance the body and bring them out of PTSD attacks.
One of the reasons PTSD is so difficult to manage and overcome is that the trauma you have experienced continually activates your fight or flight response. Even though the trauma is over, your body relives it constantly thinking it is happening in the present moment. The body is not like our brain and does not know linear time. It only knows spacial and tactile experiences. A fun experience for most, like fireworks, can set off a tactile memory of a bad experience of the past. The body hears the sound and reacts as if it is happening in that very moment. The body doesn't differentiate between the past experience of gunfire and the new experience of fireworks. It just responds immediately setting off a physiological reaction that takes the person on a terrible carnival ride.
Think of a movie that is playing loudly in a movie theater and you can’t turn it down. It’s blaring incessantly. The only way to “turn down” the trauma blaring inside you is to calm the central nervous system.
When specific reflexology points in your hands, feet or ears are released, it sends a message to your central nervous system, telling it to return to the “rest and digest” mode. Once you’re finally out of “fight or flight,” your brain and body can begin the healing process, and you can make your way to living a life free from triggers and flashbacks.
In a study done on soldiers with PTSD, it was found that frequent sessions of reflexology—two to three sessions per week initially—were shown statistically to improve their symptoms. During the first round of sessions, there was a “two steps forward, one step back” pattern to the improvement, with the soldiers showing a return to their symptoms on the third treatment of the week. But over time, the improvement after day three became statistically significant.
This speaks to the ability of the body to begin to process and heal itself when it is in a calm space. Students at ATIT are trained to perform reflexology on clients who are experiencing all forms of anxiety disorder and PTSD.
Until next time...
Kim M. Green, Founder
Kim is the Founder and Senior Instructor at Advanced Therapy Institute of Touch. She teaches laypeople and professionals alike advanced bodywork techniques which utilize Integrative Meridian Therapy, Hara Assessment, Somatic Trauma Release therapies, Japanese/Chinese Practices and rehabilitative forms of bodywork. She loves teaching practitioners to assist their clients in releasing long-held chronic injury, traumas or somato-emotional patterns that reduce a persons ability to enjoy their lives fully. At ATIT, we believe "All Things Are Possible!" Check out our School Tour.