Does Massage Therapy for Trauma Release Really Work?


Trauma can come from one event or a series of events.As more and more research comes out about the long-term effects of trauma, we’re also learning about how to help the body heal from it. Massage therapy for trauma release is highly effective for many people. Are you wondering if it could work for you? Let’s dive in a little so that you can decide if you’d like to give it a try.

Ancora Wellness began with the confident belief that you should be able to access wellness services without a diagnosis. Our group of practitioners does not require you to have a medical diagnosis to receive treatment. From nutritional support to mental health care, we have a range of services to support you. Call today to make an appointment.

What Counts as Trauma?

There has been much discussion lately about trauma-informed care and what that looks like for different modalities. But many people aren’t clear on what constitutes trauma. Trauma includes any event or series of events that are harmful or that a person perceives as threatening. 

This definition is broad because trauma looks different for everyone. The emotional response to the event is a key indicator of trauma. This response may happen immediately, or it may present itself long after the situation ends. Frequently, the trauma occurs during childhood.

Some familiar sources of trauma include:

  • Natural Disasters
  • Prolonged Illness
  • Rape or Sexual Assault
  • Neglect or Physical Abuse
  • Community Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Military or Wartime Experiences
  • Robbery or Other Crime
  • Religious Extremism

An event doesn’t have to be dramatic or long-lasting to be traumatic, which is why many people don’t recognize it. We instinctively understand that having your helicopter shot down in a war zone is traumatic. But it’s easy to overlook more subtle experiences, leaving many people to suffer from the aftermath of traumatic events.

Trauma Can Reside in the Body

Previous generations, especially in the West, generally expected someone to “just get over it” if something frightening or devastating happened to a person. Tears, grieving, and other emotional responses were often signs of weakness in many communities and families. Stiff upper lip, and all. But the reality is that your mind and body do not just get over it most of the time. They very much do not.

Emotional and physical trauma leave aftershocks in the body that can result in a vast range of physical ailments and disorders. Digestive disorders, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and headaches are just a few symptoms of trauma stored in the body.

Additionally, those who experience prolonged or repeated traumatic events tend to be in a state of hyper-vigilance. This “fight or flight” status can lead to tight muscles and fascia that bring pain.

What Is Massage Therapy for Trauma Release?

Gone are the days of the “masseuse” in a “massage parlor.” (Thank goodness!) Massage therapy is a regulated practice that requires significant training and offers tremendous healing. Licensed massage therapists (LMTs) can help your body recover from acute or prolonged trauma.

Trauma-informed massage should include consent-based practices. The LMT will clearly explain their proposed treatment so that you can give permission with confidence. They will also ask for consent as they move through the massage session, checking with you about pressure and hand placement. Your bodily autonomy is at the center of this treatment.

Massage therapy for trauma release seeks to help the nervous system regulate itself to move out of the constant state of hyper-vigilance. It also releases tension brought on by this state of fight or flight.

The tension your body stores from trauma is different from the tightness you experience due to poor posture or weekend warrior injuries. Instead, it is the result of your sympathetic nervous system storing all of the trauma. Whether it happened once or repeatedly, your body keeps a record.

What To Expect During Your Session

The severity and frequency of the trauma someone experienced can help guide the LMT’s treatment plan. But that does not mean you have to tell them everything. Their job is to work with you at your comfort level.

You can share what you are ready to share. You can tell your LMT where you feel the trauma in your body without giving details of your experience. You are at the center of this treatment.

Your first session will likely be longer so that your massage therapist has time to assess your highest needs. This is also a chance for you to ask questions and clarify how they will work with you. Before any treatment, no matter how often you go, the LMT will ask for consent before beginning.

Does It Work?

Most clients find tremendous relief as they work with a massage therapist for trauma release. The long-stored tension and tightness are finally no longer in residence in their bodies.

Massage therapy for trauma release is rarely a one-and-done treatment option. The body needs time and repetition to remember that it can let go of the trauma and move into optimal health. Most of the time, it’s best to work with a trauma-informed mental health provider in conjunction with massage.

Often, clients experience trembling or a feeling of heat as the trauma releases. Many people also have an emotional response as the physical tension eases. If you find yourself crying or even feeling some anxiety during this process, that is totally normal.

Supporting the Whole You

At Ancora Wellness, we recognize that your health needs can look different every day. We offer a range of services, from mental health counseling to naturopathic care, in our Hillsboro, OR, wellness center. We also provide telehealth appointments with our counselors.

We invite you to give us a call and connect. Our team can help you determine the right next step for your best health and function.

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