Massage Takes on Trauma

By Melissa Satterwhite and Ross Ashcraft

When I consider the people I know that have witnessed trauma, my first thought for helping them was never massage.  Honestly, massage was not even second or third.  How could massage benefit someone who has obviously encountered something so horrific that they required professional help?  Could the compassionate touch from another actually help them long term?….could it?

When I considered pursuing massage therapy, my first thought was not to work with trauma survivors.  I did not intentionally exclude this idea or dismiss its value it is simply something I did not really consider.  Despite this, the more I learn of massage and its benefits, the more evident it is that massage has great value as part of a holistic approach to treatment for trauma related conditions.

Trauma is what we call the body’s response to something terrible it has experienced.  Trauma could be anything from a car wreck, to a soldier coming home from war, and physical or sexual abuse.  Trauma, and the body’s response, is as diverse as the population itself.  Though there is a myriad of ways for massage to benefit trauma survivors, I am going to focus one main approach.

Trauma Touch Therapy:

A common response to trauma is to separate one’s self from one’s feelings and, ultimately forget what your feelings, “feel” like.  The goal of Trauma Touch Therapy is to help survivors reconnect with…themselves.  Going numb is a common reaction to trauma.  While this is can be a necessary defense mechanism when initially traumatized, if this numbness locks into place it will do so indiscriminately.  Meaning:  all things become numb.  Both good and bad feelings and sensation are suppressed.   This will might cause loneliness and a profound disconnection from those they love.

The therapist typically designs 10 sessions that progress through treatment goals.  The client must learn to feel that they are in control.  Unhealthy touch is unfortunately a common way that people become traumatized.  Training the client to accept honest healthy compassionate touch is integral to the client gaining control of their life again.  A requirement of participating in a Trauma Touch program is being in active psychotherapy.  Practitioners feel that this holistic approach makes overall treatment more beneficial.  Trauma Touch Therapy is a modality that requires a 100 clock-hour advanced training program.   For more information, please go to

General Relaxation Massage:

There are also venues where traditional massage is used as a part of a treatment approach for trauma related conditions.  One specific example involved the use of massage in the treatment of Post soldiers getting chair massageTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with veterans.  An element of PTSD includes a state of hyper-arousal, in addition to anxiety, panic, insomnia, and tension-induced pain.  All of these symptoms can be addressed with massage.  Swedish massage, along with Reiki, Acupuncture / Acupressure, Qigong, etc., are being used along with psychotherapy and traditional medicine for a holistic approach.

What do you think?  Do you feel massage can make a difference?  Tell us your thoughts?

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6 thoughts on “Massage Takes on Trauma”

  1. Massage has made a HUGE difference in my life. I am a survivor of a significant amount of trauma and massage has enabled me to connect with my true self. It has allowed me to see my body as it actually is, not as I perceive it.

  2. I can more than agree that using massage on someone with PTSD would not have been my first thought. I have a friend in the marines who suffers from PTSD and it never occurred to me that giving him a massage could probably calm his nerves enough to sooth some of his symptoms.

  3. When I started this program I was a “Touch-me-not.” The simple act of putting a hand on my shoulder would make my stomach turn and make my adrenaline spike. I couldn’t stand to be touched, I had my reasons. Getting a Massage everyday has helped me to deal with my past and deal with my reaction to touch. So, yes, Massage helps, very much!

  4. I think massage is extremely helpful in lots of different situations. It can help people not only physically, but sometimes just as much mentally as well.

  5. Trauma touch would be the cure to a lot of depression. Same as a simple unplanned hug can go along way with you even knowing you needed it. I have a few elderly patients who are frantic and won’t stay still for any type of procedure. Know matter how you speak to them or try to calm them, nothing does the trick…until I hold their hand. For them I think its a since of wholeness and assurance of having someone their for them.

  6. I feel that trauma touch therapy is a great way to help victims accept touch in a positive way again. I like that there is so much extra training for this and that there is such a demand for this I would love to learn more about it.