Is Massage Beneficial for PTSD?

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 3.53.03 PMThere is no simple answer to this question because each individual experiences PTSD differently so the massage therapist’s approach must be very flexible and possibly supervised.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of PTSD:
The National Center for PTSD states there are four types of symptoms.

1.    Reliving the traumatic event
– Caused by a ‘trigger’ (a sound, sight or smell)


2.    Avoidance of environments that may remind the individual of the event
Avoid talking or thinking about it
Avoid people or places that are reminders of what happened

3.    Hyper arousal
Feeling jittery
Easily become irritated or angry
Easily startled

4.    Negative changes in feelings and beliefs
Difficulty maintaining personal or professional relationships
Dissociation from the event
Feelings of guilt, shame, unworthiness, humiliation
Feeling out of control

Knowing about the symptoms is merely a starting place. As massage therapists, we must learn how to help effectively so the client feels safe and trusts us. Work with another clinician to gain insight into PTSD and mentorship.

Six ways massage can help:
1. Gentle touch can give the client a more positive sense of self
2. Stress relief; decreased anxiety/worry
3. Creates a place of safety for the client
4. Decreases physical pain and tension
5. Gives the client control
6. Improves breathing and sleeping patterns

As long as the client knows he/she can stop the session at any time and as long as the therapist works slowly and gently after a thorough intake, massage has been shown to greatly improve the symptoms of PTSD, when used in conjunction with professional help from a doctor and counselor. Perhaps you know someone with PTSD who could benefit from massage.

Trigger Points

Trigger points can be found throughout your body. They are painful, extra-tense points within a tight muscle.

If left unattended they will shorten your muscles’ reach and refer pain to surrounding areas causing other muscles to tighten and shorten as they become impacted.

Eventually trigger points can change the way you walk and move!

Here are six ways to release trigger points.

With your hands, wherever you can reach. Likely areas would be top of the shoulders, feet, top of the neck against your skull, knees, and hands.

On a tennis ball on the floor or against the wall. Key areas would be between the shoulder blades and around the hip joint, feet again.


With a Theracane. Deep pressure delivered to the top of shoulders, outside of the thighs and back; no need to get down on the floor!


By foam rolling, often called SMR or self-myofascial release. Key areas are thighs (front, back, inner, outer) and legs.


With a partner. They may be willing to apply the pressure and you can do the movement.


Come in and get a massage of course! Let my fingers do the walking.


The key to all of these methods is patience. You must be willing to stay in position and WAIT for the muscle to release. The length of time you wait will depend on how long the trigger point has been there, whether or not the surrounding bony structures are in correct alignment, if there has been an injury or not and how dense or loosely packed your muscle tissue is.

After only a few minutes of working with your trigger points you will feel significant pain relief and relaxation. I do this every few days just to take the kinks out and to shorten my recovery time.

Occasionally when I’m having trouble sleeping, 10 minutes trigger point release works very well to prepare me for sleep or to put me back to sleep. Try it!

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