PTSD can be healed with movement.
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a mental health condition that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as combat, sexual assault, or a serious accident. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event, negative changes in mood and cognition (such as feeling detached or having difficulty remembering the event), and increased arousal (such as being easily startled or having difficulty sleeping).
Trauma has long been viewed as a psychological (mind) issue, but recent research indicates a full physiological (body) issue. It can manifest as fatigue, TMJ or jaw pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and chronic lower back pain, and chronic headaches (2). Much like a physical injury, a body’s response to being traumatized can lead to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and can affect someone long after the traumatic event is over. These hormones can cause physical changes in the body, such as muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue.
While traditional therapies have focused on the psychological aspects of the condition, the body also plays a crucial role in the healing process. One way to address the physical symptoms of PTSD is through movement.
Movement can help improve the symptoms associated with traumatic events by activating the nervous system and using up the adrenaline that would otherwise be stored in the body. Exercise can also release endorphins, which can help with situational depression and anxiety. This is why body movement is considered an additional treatment option for trauma, alongside therapy and medication.
Exercise can be an effective way to address the physical symptoms of PTSD, and it has been shown to have a positive impact on the brain. It has been found that regular exercise can help to improve the function of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. It can also help to reduce the size of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response. This can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are common in those who have experienced trauma.
Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to be helpful. In fact, low-impact exercises like walking or tai chi can show tremendous benefits to traumatized individuals.
Yoga and mindfulness practices are also great options for addressing the physical symptoms. Yoga can help to reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility, which can help to reduce pain and discomfort. Mindfulness practices can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can help to improve focus and concentration. These practices can help to improve the function of the brain and can help to reduce the symptoms of trauma.
It’s important to note that exercise alone will not cure any mental illness, but when combined with other treatments it can be highly effective. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a great resource. Dr. van der Kolk is a psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to serving PTSD patients.
In conclusion, movement plays an important role in the healing process for those who have experienced any form of trauma. The body is an important aspect of healing that should not be overlooked. If you’re dealing with trauma, it’s worth discussing the benefits of movement with your mental health provider. It’s important to note that everyone is different and treatment plans are tailored to the individual’s needs. It’s important to work with a trained mental health professional to determine the best treatment plan for you.