Many men and women who return from deployment will experience combat stress, which is a very normal period of processing a collection of events and re-establishing physical health and overall physiological balance. This process of decompression is similar to what many of us go through at various points of our lives; perhaps at the conclusion of a busy season at work, after a time of supporting a family member through an illness or coming out of a period of financial stress. With time, rest and a little self-care, we feel like ourselves again.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health challenge that some people – soldiers and civilians – develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. In this case, time has passed and rest has been possible, yet decompression has not occurred. Returning to one’s old self is not happening. Experiencing prolonged disruption can lay the groundwork for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Statistically, PTSD affects one in five Iraq war veterans; up to 10 percent of Gulf War veterans; 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan; and almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Military sexual trauma (MST) from sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment is another condition that presents with similar symptoms and affects an estimated one in four women and one in 100 men, according to the VA. Most experts in the field of veteran care suspect that both of these estimates are low, as many cases may go undiagnosed or unreported. It might be because of lack of available services and even a fear or inability to disclose what they have experienced.
One of the most brief explanations of how trauma impacts the body comes from trauma specialist Bonnie Owens, L.C.S.W., who says “neurons that fire together wire together.” She explains that in the wake of a traumatic event, the brain is assaulted and many, if not all, systems of the body fire rapidly in an attempt to protect and survive the event. “After the event has passed, the brain and body attempt to regulate and put things back in order, but new connections have formed and people can get stuck in patterns of thought or behavior and may be unable to overcome neurobiological disruptions.
Those with PTSD or MST often experience flashbacks that may cause them to go to great lengths to avoid facing reminders of a specific experience. In an effort to avoid a trigger, they may withdraw from family, friends or public places. They can feel like they need to be on guard or hypervigilant. In this state, they will survey a room upon entering, and keep their back to the wall with their eyes on others. Not surprisingly, this can lead to poor concentration, irritability, mood swings and lack of sleep.
As symptoms compile, veterans can end up feeling disconnected and numb. Many who fought in modern warfare also wrestle with moral injury, which is the belief that the acts they performed in combat violate their personal belief of what is right. These symptoms manifest in any number of combinations, but in all cases, the body as a whole carries the burden of the condition.
Massage for Veterans
It is encouraging to know that our brains and bodies have the ability to form new pathways after trauma, which means that healing is possible. This notion creates a strong argument for incorporating massage into a veteran’s overall treatment plan. Just as the initial trauma arose from an intense output of physical and mental energy, eliciting a controlled neurobiological response through bodywork can help to re-wire the brain and relax the body.
Additionally, the social engagement aspect of each visit can in itself be healing. In a massage session, nurturing, soothing touch is offered unconditionally. The therapist is there to help the client feel good, with no expectation of anything in return. This helps the client to learn trust and to experience human touch again. These experiences contribute greatly to the healing process especially for victims of MST.
It is important to understand that not all veterans have PTSD nor have they all sustained significant injury. But for those who are injured, it is crucial to be knowledgeable and to be prepared for anything.
One Healing Touch Reiki & Massage for Women (OHT), has partnered with Hands for Heroes™ to provide complimentary therapeutic bodywork to our nation’s Veterans.
Hands for Heroes™ is a nationwide organization of healthcare professionals who are donating their time and skills to provide therapeutic bodywork for our Nation’s Heroes. As a Hands for Heroes Partner™, OHT is making a significant contribution to the recovery and healing of our courageous service women and men and improving their daily lives one session at a time.
- You must be a UNITED STATES Veteran with proof of status. You must mention this when making your appointment and bring proof to your session. (There is a maximum of two complimentary sessions per year, per veteran in order to serve as many Veterans as possible.)
- Participants may select from a 60-minute Reiki or Massage session. No other discounts apply to complimentary Hands for Heroes-based services. Sessions are non-transferable to spouses, friends, etc.
- Appointments for the Hands For Heroes program are available in-office only; no in-home appointments are available for this program.
To learn more about Hands for Heroes™ and their goal of providing 1 million massages across the nation please visit www.handsforheroes.net
To sign-up to be a participant in the program with One Healing Touch Reiki & Massage for Women Click Here