Massage for PTSD

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MASSAGE FOR PTSDNot only does massage feel good, it’s good for you!

The number of military troops with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has increased over the past ten years.  The earlier PTSD is treated, the more effective treatment will be.

The benefits of massage on PTSD are not limited to the military.  The positive results from massage can be profound for folks suffering with PTSD no matter the cause of the condition.  Living through or witnessing anything extremely upsetting or dangerous can cause PTSD.  No matter the cause, the symptoms of PTSD can be damaging to quality of life.

People seek massage for a variety of reasons, but you don’t typically hear someone say, “I want to get massage for PTSD.”  A client with PTSD may not even be aware of the benefits they can experience from massage, and instead make an appointment for a variety of other reasons such as stress, chronic pain or simply because they received a gift certificate.

Frequently a client with PTSD cannot relax during a massage.  In these instances, it’s important for the therapist to proceed slowly with their treatment.  The initial sessions might be more productive with the client fully clothed and sitting up.  Ideally, the client will become more comfortable and able to relax in subsequent sessions.  As the client is able to relax, and begins to feel safe, the benefits from the massage will increase.

Massage won’t cure PTSD, but it is effective at alleviating some of the worst manifestations of the syndrome.  Working in conjunction with physicians and psychiatric professionals specializing in PTSD, massage therapists can help folks with PTSD to be comfortable in their body, to learn to relax and be in the present moment.  Studies also show that massage will improve associated symptoms such as chronic pain, immune system deficiencies and stress.

Additionally, PTSD sufferers have been found to have elevated cortisol levels, which lead to cognitive impairment, poor glucose management and lowered immune response.  Studies at the Touch Research Institute show that massage helps to reduce blood cortisol levels, and will lessen those damaging effects.

There has been research published in Military Medicine that reports military veterans indicated significant reductions in anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage.  Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage.  This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

At Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center the Holistic Healing approach to PTSD created by clinical psychologist John Fortunato has proven to be particularly effective. The therapies include a number of modalities taught at my school including reiki, massage, meditation, yoga and hot stone massage.


My school also introduces students to CranioSacral Therapy (CST).  CST has been shown to be particularly effective in treating PTSD.  Studies performed at the Upledger Institute on Vietnam Veterans suffering from PTSD proved to be effective in treating five key components of PTSD, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and panic attacks.


Soft touch work has also been shown to be effective with PTSD.  Due to the heightened emotional arousal that is part of PTSD, sufferers often experience increased body tension but the hyper vigilant state they experience coupled with traumatic somatic memories can make it difficult for them to receive deep tissue work.  Soft touch therapies that can be as simple as identifying tense areas and lightly holding them along with providing a soothing environment is beneficial.   Soft lighting, aromatherapy and deep breathing can promote healing and a reduction in PTSD symptoms.


Although much of the information regarding massage and military veterans focuses on PTSD, returning soldiers frequently have many physical problems that can also be helped by bodywork.  Massage can help relieve sore muscles by lessening tension and stiffness while increasing flexibility. Another benefit of massage is the reduction of scar tissue and the breaking down of adhesions caused by wounds and injuries, especially from fire or heat related weapons and explosives.  This can help to regenerate skin and muscle tissue caused by burns.

Massage has been useful in reducing or even preventing muscular atrophy caused by disuse after injury.  Improved posture and alignment caused by carrying heavy loads of 50 pounds or more on a daily basis is another attribute of regular massage sessions.

The stress of war and transitioning often causes a chronic release of the hormone cortisol, which, in the long term, can cause problems. Massage has been shown to reduce cortisol levels while increasing levels of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.  This balancing of hormones aids in relaxation, and causes a reduction of stress related issues.

During deployment a soldier may be exposed to various toxins and medications; massage therapy can facilitate the elimination of these toxins.

A soldier’s sleep is often restless and shallow; at times it is non-existent. Massage helps to restore healthy sleep patterns.  Massage is beneficial in reducing insomnia and increasing the deep sleep necessary for a healthy mind and body.

During deployment meals may not be the healthiest with regard to nutrition, quantity of food, lack of fresh produce or consistency.  Intestinal muscles may be stressed because of a lack of adequate toilet facilities and lack of clean water. Abdominal massage is especially helpful to restore a digestive system back to normality.

Massage offers a multitude of physical and emotional benefits.  Those suffering from PTSD can experience relief from the simplest techniques and relaxation.  These complimentary approaches are far preferable than resorting to medication as a way to cope with life.

*Article written by Kathy Skubik*

Irene’s Myomassology Institute

Nationally Accredited therapeutic massage school with financial aid available for qualified students.


School prepares students for a rewarding career.  Irene’s pays the fees for students’ Massage Board Licensing Exam and their State License.  They are ready to start work when they graduate.  Irene’s provides lifetime job placement for alumni with exclusive career fairs three times a year.

Irene’s provides all active and military veterans a $20.00 one hour massage rate.

Call for information 248-350-1400 or website at


Massage as a Career   According to U.S. News & World Report, massage was named one of The Best Jobs in 2014!  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth for massage therapists of 23% between 2012-2022.  That will provide 30,000 jobs in the profession.

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