Supportive Treatments for PTSD

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that can develop after a traumatic experience. It often includes symptoms of increased anxiety and hypervigilance, pain from muscle tension and headaches, and sleep issues, and it can make every day a struggle. Treatment with HaLé therapies can help empower the healing process and ease the distress.

HaLé Bodywork can provide pain relief, lower anxiety and stress, and improve mood and sleep quality, all of which are especially helpful for people with PTSD. Our sessions are also based on creating and strengthening a trust relationship with your massage therapist. This trust bond brings both physical and emotional comfort, which creates safety for increasing awareness of both physical and psychological distress. This combination of trust, comfort, and awareness creates room for healing.

Our classes also provide many of these same benefits. HaLé Yoga and our other offerings all increase mindful awareness of the body in the present moment, and help release stress and anxiety, reduce pain, and create a general sense of wellbeing. By linking the mind and body through the breath, the mind is able to calm, which can reduce the intensity of feelings and thoughts associated with PTSD symptoms.

By reducing physical and mental distress, the bodywork and classes we offer at HaLé can provide relief for PTSD symptoms. Through increased feelings of trust, safety, and awareness, the constant alarms of PTSD can be recalibrated, and we are happy to offer support through that process.

Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a difficult and frustrating syndrome involving generalized chronic pain, fatigue, and mood and memory issues. Treatment focuses on managing these symptoms, and bodywork and massage are especially helpful for this. Developing a self-care relationship with your body through classes like Yoga for All Levels and MELT Method also helps bring long term relief.

Bodywork and massage treatments for fibromyalgia use integrative techniques to best address the sensitivity of a body dealing with fibro. Gentle stretches, rocking motions, and long strokes help release muscle tension, increase circulation, and bring deep relaxation. Because every body is unique, it is especially important to communicate with your therapist about your treatment, and to let them know if it ever feels too intense.

Multiple scientific studies have looked at the effectiveness of bodywork treatments for fibromyalgia, and the proven benefits include:

  • Higher serotonin levels
  • Decreased stress hormones
  • Improved sleep
  • Lower pain levels, especially at tender points
  • Improved overall sense of well-being

In addition to bodywork, developing a self-care relationship with your body can lay the foundations for long term relief of fibromyalgia symptoms. This is a process of learning to listen and be in relationship with your most physical self, and does not come easily to everyone. Regular practice is key, and self care classes like yoga and MELT method are very helpful in this process.

Fibromyalgia and related pain syndromes can make basic activities difficult. Treatment through bodywork and self-care can offer better sleep, less pain, and an overall sense of well-being. Regular massage sessions and classes have a cumulative effect, building on each other to make day to day living less painful and more enjoyable.

The Process of Healing

The body is a marvellous machine, able to repair and heal itself. This process of healing happens in stages, and understanding these phases can help ease the frustration and fear of dealing with an injury. There are three main steps of tissue healing: Inflammation, Repair, and Remodeling.

Inflammation: The body immediately begins healing a traumatic injury with inflammation. The injured tissues release chemical signals that dilate blood vessels to bring extra blood flow, white blood cells, and nutrients to help clean up and wall off the injured area. This also serves to limit the function of the injured area, to prevent additional tissue damage. The swelling and pain, as uncomfortable as they are, are a protective process. Bodywork can support this phase by working on associated structures while avoiding the injured tissues. It also will help shift the nervous system out of fight or flight mode into relaxation and repair mode through stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows more of the body’s resources to focus on the healing process.

Repair: Once the injured area is walled off and cleaned up, inflammation subsides and construction begins to replace or repair the injured tissue. Temporary blood vessels grow in order to supply the nutrients needed for healing, and special cells called fibroblasts begin producing a fragile form of scar tissue called granulation tissue to fill in the gaps left after the damaged structures were cleaned out by the body. This is when it is easiest to reinjure the tissues, as pain levels have gone down but the repairs are not yet strong enough for full use. Bodywork can begin to gently address the injured areas, being careful of the fragile granulation tissue, and can continue to work on associated structures to maintain function, minimize compensation, and increase circulation.

Remodeling: Once enough granulation tissue is produced, the construction of permanent tissue can begin, usually as strong scar tissue made from a dense network of collagen fibers. At first, the collagen fibers are arranged in all directions, and they adjust according to how the body moves as it heals. Some fibers are reinforced to provide more strength, as others are destroyed to provide more flexibility. This process is best done with a gradual return to functional activities, followed by time for the tissue to adapt. At this point, bodywork treatment can work much more directly on the affected area, focusing on breaking up scar tissue and increasing range of motion, even as it continues to address compensating movement patterns.

There is no specific time frame for each phase of healing, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of each part of the process in order to treat them effectively. Remodeling in particular can take months or even years, and supporting the body as it finds its best function as it heals can do a lot to help reduce chronic dysfunction and discomfort. Bodywork and self-care are effective ways to support this process, helping us stay in conversation with our bodies and respond to their needs.

On the Psychology of Muscle

Your muscles take on the shape that they are accustomed to being in for hours every day. Any one thing, any repetitive motion, will shape the muscle and shape the fascia that surrounds it. The body responds so that the form follows the function, or that the function will make the form. What we want, then, is for our bodies to assume variable positions and activities throughout the day and throughout our life.

Changing positions can be challenging, though. It takes more than stretching to release a muscle, and we can’t force ourselves into a position when our body isn’t ready. Muscle fibers require a neurological signal in the form of a chemical messenger in order to release, and even though that signal comes from the brain, we don’t necessarily decide if our brain will send that signal. We can’t just tell our hamstrings to be less tight. What needs to happen is that the brain needs to feel that it is safe enough for that muscle to release.

So don’t over-stretch yourself into being over-burdened and over-committed. Dive into a conversation with yourself, befriend yourself, and gain an understanding of what your end stretch is and how much you can take on. There are times when we can take on a whole lot, and life circumstances change and we can take on even more. But nothing is constant, everything ebbs and flows, and it is our responsibility to listen to that ebb and flow and know if we need to back off or engage. What you did last summer may be very different from what you can do this summer, but if we go in with hearts wide open we can find opportunity.

Stay buoyant and responsive to where you and your body are in the process of holding and changing positions. We can’t force these processes, but we can work with them by knowing the parts of ourselves.

Emotional Healing that Starts in the Body

Emotional and physical healing are intertwined. Physical issues can have emotional consequences like depression or anxiety, and the opposite is also true. Strong emotions can become stored in the body, often as tension, pain, or dysfunction.

When you receive bodywork and massage or engage in a self-care practice like yoga, the release of stress and muscle tension can also bring an emotional release. Often, but not always, this release brings up negative feelings that you may have pushed back, like fear, sadness, or anger. This can be a shifting point in your healing process! Even though it is painful to experience old emotions, this can be what you need to get to the other side.

Teachers and bodyworkers are not trained or licensed to provide the therapeutic processing that a mental health counselor could, but they can do a lot to create an opportunity for deep emotional healing. They may slow down or stop the physical process of your session or class in order to let the full emotional release move through. Taking full deep breaths will also help your body release the stored energy on its own, and so they may remind you to breathe. Usually you will calm down after a few minutes, and then be able to rejoin the class or return to the flow of your bodywork treatment.

There is true wisdom in saying, “I need support.” Emotional energy is a factor in our health and our healing process, and feeling safe to release emotional energy can help in so many ways. Having someone just be present and supportive by your side can be exactly what you need.

Cultivating Healthy Posture

Posture is one of the foundations of our overall health, and cultivating healthy posture is particularly important for our sense of wellbeing. The body’s ability to heal comes through movement, and every movement informs our posture, even as our posture informs our movement. The building blocks of healthy posture include ease and economy of motion, coordination, body-mind integration, and a balance between stability and mobility.

Postural issues can get locked into chronic holding patterns in the muscles of the body, causing ongoing muscle tension and discomfort. However, there is always a need for a certain baseline of healthy muscle tension to hold us upright and stable against the pull of gravity. This means that cultivating healthy posture is a complex process of supporting the tonic “anti-gravity” muscles even as we work to ease and release the dysfunctional chronic tension.

When we have pain, it signifies that we have dryness in the tissue, which means that the fibers have become rigid. We need to shift it back to being supple and juicy. One way is to learn to control those core and intrinsic muscles that help hold you upright. You can learn to engage the right muscles in the right order for certain movements, and to then relax any extra muscles that your body is trying to use instead of using its core. You can also use something called sensorimotor awareness, where you pay attention to certain parts of the body and how they move, and then adjust them as needed. Imagery can help you find the right alignments.

Working on healthy posture is progressive. The more you can learn to engage the right muscles and relax the extra ones who are trying to “help”, the better your posture will be. It is fundamentally a process of cultivating awareness, and can have tremendous benefits for overall health and wellbeing.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is foot pain, often in the form of a stabbing pain at the heel, and can be worst in the mornings. The pain comes from the plantar fascia, which is a band of connective tissue that connects the heel to the toes along the bottom of the foot. The arch of the foot is an important part of how the foot absorbs the force of the body against the ground (which can be 3-4 times your body weight with each step while running), and the plantar fascia is an important part of maintaining the right tension in the arch, so that it is neither too loose nor too tight.

The pain of Plantar Fasciitis usually comes from biomechanical issues like imbalanced posture, how you walk, or the shoes you wear. Though plantar fasciitis has traditionally been treated as an inflammatory problem, recent research indicates that it is not inflammation so much as collagen degeneration in the fascia. Treatment, then, needs to focus on the biomechanical dysfunction of the foot and how it relates to the rest of the body.

Bodywork like massage and myofascial release are especially effective at addressing these kinds of issues. There are fascial connections that run all the way from the bottom of the foot, along the back of the calf and thigh, and continue up the back and neck to the head. Tightness anywhere along these connections can then tighten the plantar fascia and cause pain. This means that releasing tight back muscles can relieve foot pain! Working with the body as an interconnected system helps address the dysfunction that is causing the plantar fasciitis in the first place.

The other key to addressing plantar fasciitis is blood and fluid flow. Fascia needs to be hydrated in order to stay healthy, and many shoes constrict circulation in the feet, even as they misalign or stress natural foot structures through raised heels, raised toes, and/or narrowing the toes in a pointed shape. Changing shoes and stimulating the nourishing flow of blood and fluid in the feet can help the fascia repair and rebuild its collagen. Massage, therapy balls, and gua sha are all effective for this kind of stimulation.
Plantar Fasciitis is a symptom, indicating a larger problem in how the body is standing, walking,  and/or running in general. Effective treatment needs to address much more of the body than just the feet and should be customized to the specific needs of each client. Bodywork and massage is especially effective at addressing the body in this way, and at HaLe’, we know how to treat the whole person in order to ease the pain and address the dysfunction of plantar fasciitis.

PreNatal Massage for All 3 Trimesters

Pregnancy involves dramatic physical changes, and Prenatal massage is a form of therapeutic bodywork designed to support and ease the pregnant body through those changes. It provides a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits, and is careful to use special bolsters, pillows, and positions to keep you as comfortable and safe as possible.

Prenatal massage assists with many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, including aches and pains in joints and muscles, headaches, leg cramps, swelling, and constipation. The pregnant body is transitioning to add weight, change the center of gravity, and squish internal organs out of the way. Massage is able to support these transitions by easing muscular discomfort and other distress.

Circulation is also key to pregnancy, and prenatal massage helps to stimulate blood and lymph flow, which nourishes both mother and fetus and helps to remove toxins and increase immunity. It also eases the load on the heart and helps to keep blood pressure in normal ranges. During pregnancy, blood volume may increase up to 60%, and massage is a good way to support blood flow back to the heart.

Also, prenatal massage helps to stabilize hormone levels and the depression or anxiety that hormonal changes can cause, as well as soothing the nervous system into better relaxation and healthier sleep. It also offers drug-free pain relief, and the deep emotional support of nurturing touch.

Prenatal massage is recommended as often as every 2 weeks throughout the pregnancy, increasing to once a week in the third trimester. As your body changes, the specific focus of the sessions will adjust, but the overall goal of every session is to provide healthy support and ease through this time of dramatic change.

 

Boosting the Immune System

Manual Medicine supports deep health in the body, including boosting the immune system. Self care practices like yoga, as well as bodywork, massage, and mindfulness, are all proven to increase immune function.

Bodywork, massage, and self-care practices based on movement specifically promote increased lymph circulation. This supports the removal of pathogens and other waste from the body and helps spread white blood cells throughout the system, where they can respond quickly to immune challenges. This increases a person’s ability to fight infections.

Additionally, all of the manual medicine offerings at HaLe’ are effective for reducing cortisol, which is the hormone produced by high levels of pressure and stress. High levels of cortisol can boost blood pressure and reduce levels of natural killer cells in the immune system. Bringing those levels back down allows the immune system to function without that interference, restoring its effectiveness.

This is the time of year when immune systems can feel especially challenged by the perfect storm of lingering winter viruses and budding pollen allergies. Manual Medicine (literally, medicine you do by hand) provides powerful therapies to help boost and regulate the immune system, keeping it effective against the right kind of challenges.

What Really Works for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and there are new guidelines on how to treat it. Researchers analyzed more than 150 studies to understand what really works and what doesn’t. The conclusion: instead of medication, try yoga, massage, or mindfulness.

These guidelines, published by the American College of Physicians on Feb 13, 2017, say to use techniques that speed up the healing process to relax muscles, joints and tendons. This can be done through massage, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation, as well as mind-body therapies like yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

This new recommendation is in alignment with the new CDC & FDA guidelines for the usage of opiods, which are now known to be inappropriate for chronic pain management. It instead recommends trying massage, yoga, and mindfulness first, then NSAIDS like ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen is not recommended, since it does not reduce pain or inflammation.

Low back pain is common, and the way it is currently treated in medical settings is a good example of low value health care: expensive tests and therapies that don’t fix the problem. Moving to more effective treatments for both acute and chronic conditions by recommending yoga, massage, and mindfulness will help reduce suffering in patients and frustration in those who treat them.

At HaLe’, our manual medicine therapists and our self-care class instructors are experienced in treating low back pain. For regular aches and injuries, we recommend you come to class or make an appointment. For more severe conditions, please talk with us so we can guide you to the right treatment plan for your body.

 

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