Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sexual Abuse Effects Lessened by Massage

According to a study done at the Touch Research Institute with Dr. Tiffany Fields, women who had experienced sexual abuse found the effects were lessened by massage therapy. In 1996, a study involving 20 women with an average age of 35 years, were given a 30 minute massage twice a week for one month.

Immediately after the massage, the participants reported being less depressed, less anxious and their salivary cortisol levels decreased. Over the one month duration of receiving massage, the participants reported a decrease in depression and life event stress. Although the relaxation therapy control group also reported a decrease in anxiety and depression, their stress hormones did not change, and they reported an increasingly negative attitude towards touch.

Being an abuse survivor myself, I do recognize just how difficult it is to begin receiving massage work. The very first time that I tried to have a massage was on a cruise ship and I actually thought it was all about sex as many people tend to think it is. When I realized that it was not about sex and that it actually felt good to be touched, I experienced a degree of relaxation that I had not felt before.

Even with the good experience of getting the first massage, my mind always saw massage as a trigger back to past experiences that were not favorable. Even though my body was very tense, my muscles were tight and painful and my life was filled with stress, massage was not an option. I did not feel safe around anyone that was doing it and tended to discount any thought of getting a massage. I completely understand when other survivors are afraid to be touched.

My next attempt at massage started out better but by the end of the third massage, I got triggered badly. It wasn't anything the therapist was doing but unfortunately they weren't able to realize I had been triggered and so I laid there receiving the massage while being completely out of my body and not present. I never went back to the therapist and did not go back to a massage for a long time.

It wasn't until I started to think about going to massage school (of all places for me to go) that I went in and had another massage. This time, a guy was doing it and was actually one of these that applies a lot of pressure. I really didn't feel much of it. It took many months of being in massage school where I began to truly feel touch.

Since that time, I have made tremendous strides through healing and accepting touch within my own body through the Trager (TM) approach and through Unified Therapy with Dr. Paul Canali. Both have helped me release some of the trauma I went through and now my body does like to be touched. I am cautious though in who I allow to touch me but when I do get body work done on me, it is a good feeling now.

I am happy to see research being done on the area of healing, touch and massage therapy. The Touch Research Institute is a great place that is doing some tremendous research in this area. I also want to be a catalyst in helping other abuse survivors realize that touch can be a good thing even if you think there is no way on earth you can do bodywork. I've learned a form of bodywork that is not regular massage but it meets you where ever you are at and works from that point forward.


Abstract For The article cited above



SEXUAL ABUSE

Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Hart, S., Quintino, O., Drose, L., Field, T., Kuhn, C., & Schanberg, S (1997). Effects of sexual abuse are lessened by massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 1, 65-69.

Women who had experienced sexual abuse were given a 30-minute massage twice a week for 1 month. Immediately after the massage the women reported being less depressed and less anxious and their salivary cortisol levels decreased following the session. Over the 1-month treatment period the massage therapy group experienced a decrease in depression and in life event stress. Although the relaxation therapy control group also reported a decrease in anxiety and depression, their stress hormones did not change, and they reported an increasingly negative attitude toward touch.


For More Information:
1) Journal Of Bodywork Article about sexual abuse and massage
2) Touch Research Institute with Dr. Tiffany Fields, Univ of Miami
3) The Trager (TM) Approach
4) Dr. Paul Canali and Unified Therapy
5) Healing bodywork with Don Shetterly





Blog Post & Images (c) 1/20/11 Don Shetterly - use by permission only

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