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Massage & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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In light of recent ANZAC commemorations Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, has been a subject of much discussion in the news. However, it is not only service personnel returning from international conflict who suffer from PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event or a series of ­– either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The sad fact is that trauma is all around us. Millions of people are currently dealing with the condition, and the majority of cases go untreated.

It has been estimated that 70% of the adults have experienced a trauma severe enough to result in PTSD. These events can be military combat, emergency services, a terrorist attack, natural disasters, violent crime, abusive relationships or horrific accident. Of those who have gone through such an event, about 8% of men, and 20% of women will go on to develop PTSD.

Many people who experience traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t necessarily have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they can usually get better. PTSD is a complex disorder, with long ranging consequences. Generally PTSD symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. PTSD symptoms are broadly grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

For more in-depth information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder visit South Pacific Private

When trauma survivors do seek treatment, the mainstream methods of medical care involve multi discipline therapies with psychiatric care and often prescription drugs to ease anxiety, depression and sleepless nights.

Many of those who are seeking help with PTSD prefer alternative or natural approaches to ease some of burdens of the condition. Massage therapy is a recognised adjunct to the psychiatric process. Massage enables the mind and body to enter a state of deep relaxation. Once we’re able to achieve relaxation, we can more easily re-enter that state and have it relay into the long-term. This will seep into every aspect of life, allowing us to heal and find peace of mind.

How Can Massage Help?

The symptoms of PTSD are the result of imbalances in brain chemicals triggered by emotional stress. These chemicals, including neurotransmitters such as serotonin, affect behaviour, feelings and cognition. By reliving the traumatic event, people with PTSD are always in a heightened state of anxiety. The brain is unable to turn off the “Fight or Flight” response, and their bodies are constantly flooded with stress hormones that cause not only emotional but physical pain, as muscles are constantly tensed for action. Massage therapy can not only relax tensed muscles and ease the physical pain; they can trigger the body’s relaxation response, breaking the cycle of fight or flight.

A study on the effects of massage shows us what’s happening within the brain post-massage. The 2005 study proved positive changes in biochemistry following massage therapy. This included reduced cortisol and increased serotonin and dopamine. By decreasing the clients’ cortisol levels with bodywork, a client can reduce the constant feelings of hyperarousal and danger. By increasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain, an ease of suffering and anxiety is felt.

You can download the study here in PDF format.

Sexual abuse victims have also overcome their PTSD symptoms with the help of massage in combination with psychotherapy. The Journal of Bodywork and Movement conducted a study to examine the effects of body-oriented therapy, alongside psychotherapy, for women in recovery from childhood sexual abuse.

The experiment involved eight 1-hour weekly sessions of body-oriented therapy, a combination of bodywork and the emotional processing of psychotherapy. The study examined changes in somatic and psychological symptoms, and the subjective experience of the intervention using a mixed method approach. Qualitative results revealed the positive impact of body-oriented therapy on sense of inner security and psychotherapeutic progress.

Full study summary here.

With survivors of sexual abuse, it’s not only about enabling them to enter into a relaxed a state, but also encouraging their association of human touch as a positive experience. The more often they receive professional tactile treatment such as massage, the more often they can mark off yet another positive experience in their subconscious, helping to outweigh any fear and overcome active avoidance in being touched.

Massage therapy is an excellent addition to a combined approach for an overall treatment plan for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once a person is able to relax through massage, circulation improves, sleep patterns can return to normal, and a more relaxed person is more open to other modalities such as talk therapy that can help them resolve the issues at the root of his or her PTSD.


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We will remember them

On the lead up to Anzac Day as we remember those men and women who gave their lives in times of conflict, it sometimes leaves those of us who are impacted by their absence with a sense of melancholy – reflecting on times when they were in our lives and the impossible desire for them to be with us again. For those who served with them, complex emotions far deeper than melancholia can be experienced and a profound sense of loss, guilt and shame may engulf their very being. These feeling can often continue well after the memorial day itself and in the case of veterans, perhaps for a lifetime.

Traditionally we mask these feelings with what has become synonymous with the Anzac icon of alcohol and gambling mixed with mate-ship and larrikinism. But for many of the older veterans who experienced the atrocities of war, some prefer not to talk about it let alone participate in the commemorations because the experience is so painful.

Today’s generation may be left with the hallmarks of this unjustified carried shame and pain simply through exposure to the energy that was in the family unit as they grew. All of us to some degree have an inherent connection to the scares of war, whether we have directly participated in it or not. Unconsciously, our feelings can cause us to disassociate from reality and the remnant of this exposure can manifest itself in sometimes dysfunctional behaviour through our daily lives, infecting our loved ones of all ages, even the innocent.

So it’s effective to take time out and reflect on Anzac Day – honour the fallen, express our gratitude with the survivors, empathise and acknowledge those who are impacted – but most of all, to honour and acknowledge our own feelings at this time and importantly be gentle with ourselves.

For those who are experiencing disassociative feelings or even a sense of melancholia over this season, we would like to offer the prospect, as our name suggests, to enhance connections in your life and an opportunity to be gentle with yourself.

Lest we forget.

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Neuroscience research reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier

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You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.

Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy. Find happiness with these methods.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers …..

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How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay

Exercise may be an effective treatment for depression and might even help prevent us from becoming depressed in the first place, according to three timely new studies. The studies pool outcomes from past research involving more than a million men and women and, taken together, strongly suggest that regular exercise alters our bodies and brains in ways that make us resistant to despair.

Scientists have long questioned whether and how physical activity affects mental health. While we know that exercise alters the body, how physical activity affects moods and emotions is less well understood.

Past studies have sometimes muddied rather than clarified the body and mind connections. Some randomized controlled trials have found that exercise programs, often involving walking, ease symptoms in people with major depression.

But many of these studies have been relatively small in scale or had other scientific deficiencies. A major 2013 review of studies related to exercise and depression concluded that, based on the evidence then available, it was impossible to say whether exercise improved the condition. Other past reviews similarly have questioned whether the evidence was strong enough to say that exercise could stave off depression.

A group of global public-health researchers, however, suspected that newer studies and a more rigorous review of the statistical evidence might bolster the case for exercise as a treatment of and block against depression.

So for the new analyses, they first gathered all of the most recent and best-designed studies about depression and exercise.

Then, for perhaps the most innovative of the new studies, which was published last month in Preventive Medicine, they focused on whether exercise could help to prevent someone from developing depression.

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Massage for Stress and Anxiety

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Many people seek out massage therapy for the sense of relaxation it brings them. However, if someone is looking for “just a relaxation massage” it doesn’t mean their treatment is any less clinically indicated or beneficial to their overall health. Massage has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which contribute to overall physical wellbeing.


Everyone experiences some stress in their lives, whether it’s from work or personal circumstances. One study explores the effects of massage therapy on the occupational stress of those working in intensive care. This study recommends that massage therapy be used for nurses in intensive care units to reduce their stress, promote mental health and prevent the decrease in the quality of their working lives.

One report reviewed the literature surrounding the effect of massage therapy on reducing physiological measures of stress, including hormonal as well as physical variables. The review indicated that massage therapy may have several physiological measures of stress reduction, specifically salivary cortisol and heart rate, when assessed immediately after massage therapy.


Anxiety and related disorders negatively impact the quality of life and the overall health of those they affect. Massage therapy is one option for reducing the physical symptoms that are associated with anxiety. One recent study looked at the effects of massage therapy on the vital signs and anxiety in healthy women. In this study, massage therapy was successful in significantly reducing pulse, respiratory rate, and systolic blood pressure.

Another study evaluated the effectiveness of a relaxation or wellness massage therapy program in reducing stress, anxiety and aggression on a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit. A 20 min massage therapy session was offered daily to patients during their period of hospitalisation and several different tests and variables were used to measure patient outcomes at admission and discharge from the unit. This study found that there was a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety, resting heart rate, and cortisol levels immediately following the initial and final massage therapy treatments. Massage therapy had immediate beneficial effects on anxiety-related measures and may be a useful de-escalating tool for reducing stress and anxiety in acutely hospitalised psychiatric patients.

Massage Therapy and Mental Health

Occupational and other stresses can lead to a range of significant health issues, and massage therapy is one viable way of coping with those stressors. Anxiety disorders also negatively impact quality of life, and massage therapy is one of the complementary options that can help address the physical symptoms of those disorders. Massage therapy is a clinically valuable treatment option both to relieve the everyday stressors that can contribute to other illnesses, and to help cope with anxiety disorders.

Generally with a relaxation massage, people feel a sense of calm and peace of mind from both the tranquil atmosphere and the treatment itself. With this in mind, how much more beneficial would it be if the tranquil atmosphere created was actually within their own environment? Enhance Connections provides for the delivery of a relaxation massage to your door at a time of your choosing on a day you require – now that’s definitely a solution to stress and anxiety.

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