Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beyond PTSD - Helping to Heal the Trauma of Combat Through Massage Therapy

By:  Linda Fehrs, LMT

At the end of 2012, tens of thousands of war veterans came back home. They returned to all the mundane aspects of life they left behind when they were called to deploy to combat zones in the Middle East. For many it is a difficult transition and they are not the same person they were when life was more predictable. Learn how massage and other complementary therapies can help ease the stress, trauma and physical injuries so often affecting our war veterans.

Much of the information regarding massage therapy and the military veteran population focuses on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But, along with that, the returning soldier has many physical problems that can be helped through the use of bodywork. This includes muscle soreness, postural problems and generalized stress upon returning to civilian life after the extreme discipline of military life and war.
Transitioning from an existence weighed down with the constant tensions of being deployed in a war-torn country, away from family and friends and all things familiar can be extremely difficult. Many soldiers are career military, many more are reservists called to duty and upon their return will try to re-assimilate into their previous life to discover they, as well as their relationships, have changed.
Often upon getting out of the military these veterans will go for help through their local Veterans’ Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC), only to find they are treated mostly with medication and talk therapies. These can be of tremendous help, but the VAMCs are inconsistent from facility to facility and most do not offer any kind of bodywork, such as massage therapy. Many veterans opt not to use bodywork because of this and, because bodywork, such as massage therapy, is usually not covered by medical insurance.
This is where volunteering your services becomes important. By volunteering massage therapy services, knowledge and understanding can spread throughout the veteran community. And, while helping those who need it most, you may be able to pick up some new paying clients as well when they see and feel how much it improves their health.

The Physical Effects of War

So much of the focus is on healing the psychological wounds of war and lengthy deployments. These are often addressed by psychotherapists and psychiatrists. Alongside those psychological wounds come physical ailments, not just wounds from bullets and explosives, but the chronic aches and pains arising from constant stress, carrying heavy loads, long marches, inadequate diets and lack of sleep. These do not just go away by themselves upon returning home. They can be chronic, debilitating and life-threatening.
In addition to the effects of war, the transitioning vet may worry about having a place to live*, changes in family relationships, finding a job or returning to a specific job after a long absence, possible substance abuse problems and changes in general in the country’s economic setbacks. While the military does have programs to help transitioning soldiers, they do not include bodywork.

How Can Massage Help?

Massage therapy for both mental and physical healing has been used for more than 3,000 years. In the modern era, with regard to the military, nurses and sometimes doctors treating soldiers and veterans were often trained in massage therapy which was used primarily for nerve damage, injury rehabilitation and what was then called “shell shock” (now referred to as PTSD). Both Allied and Axis forces were known to use massage to help in healing the wounded during the two World Wars.
Today, massage therapy is not regularly used in military or veteran medical facilities, having been dropped in favor of physical therapy, although there are some in the process of conducting studies on its efficacy. This is despite it being shown to help in the first half of the 20th century.
Massage therapy can offer help to returning soldiers and veterans by:
  • relieving sore muscles, lessoning muscle tension and stiffness.
  • increasing flexibility.
  • reducing scar tissue and the breaking down of adhesions caused by wounds and injuries, especially from fire or heat related weapons and explosives.
  • helping to regenerate skin and muscle tissue caused by burns.
  • reducing or even preventing muscles atrophy caused by disuse after injury.
  • improving posture and alignment – misalignment and poor posture can be caused by carrying heavy loads of 50 pounds or more on a daily basis.
  • normalizing hormone production – the stress of war and transitioning often causes a chronic release of the hormone cortisol which, in the long term, can cause problems. Massage has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which help in relaxation and reduction of stress related issues.
  • helping to maximize toxin removal from the body – during deployment the soldier may be exposed to various toxins and medications; massage therapy can facilitate the elimination of these toxins.
  • reducing insomnia and increasing the deep sleep necessary for a healthy mind and body – during deployment sleep is often restless and shallow; at times it is non-existent. Massage helps to restore healthy sleep patterns.
  • helping restore a healthy digestive system – during deployment meals may not be the healthiest with regard to nutrition, quantity of food, or consistency. Intestinal muscles may be stressed because of a lack of adequate toilet facilities and lack of clean water. Abdominal massage is especially helpful to restore a digestive system back to normality.

How You Can Help

There are many organizations that offer massage therapy to veterans. Because the list is constantly changing (many are short-term programs) they are not listed here. Check with your professional massage and bodywork organizations for information as well as any local Veteran Affairs medical centers and military bases near your office. Veteran service organizations, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion or AmVets may be helpful as well. You can also consider gathering some of your peer bodyworkers together and setting something up, perhaps each giving a few hours a month at a veteran facility or homeless shelter.
* At any given time during the year, between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless and approximately 13,100 of them are women, some with children. More than 300,000 of them are sleeping on the streets or in shelters. Veterans make up about 1/3 of all the homeless in the U.S.

Recommended Study:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Massage


Calvert, Robert Noah, LMT. “Pages from History: Massage in Nursing.” Massage Magazine, 2003, Issues 103 & 104. Web. 11 Oct 2012. and
Devitt, Michael. “Massage in the Military.”, Jan 2006. Web. 11 Oct 2012.
Stuto, Karen, LMT. “Veterans and Massage.” Massage and Bodywork Artists, Albany, NY, 07 Aug 2012. Web. 11 Oct 2012.
Unknown. “Statistics (Homelessness Among Veterans).” Veterans, Inc, 2010. Web. 11 Oct 2012.
Unknown. “Transitioning From Military Service – Overcoming Transition Challenges.” Make the Connection. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2011. Web. 11 Oct 2012.

Indigo eco-spa Stevenswood features a limited number of complementary and discounted massage services for our valued veterans. Contact us to book today.
Stevenswood's Indigo Eco-Spa focuses on the healing arts of massage.  Visit for a list of treatments.

Connie, Stevenswood Spa Director

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hot Stone Massage Therapy

Hot stone massage therapy is a type of massage that uses special stones, such as basalt, covered in massage oil that are heated to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat that is being released by the stones, once placed on the body, helps in relaxing the inner muscles.

Hot stone massage is a form of therapy that is used for the relaxation of tensed muscles, enhancement of blood circulation and for stress relief.

River rocks are commonly used in hot stone massages as they have been naturally smoothed over time by the river current. The smooth surface of the stone will prevent damage to the skin. Basalt stones and many river rocks are high in iron content which retains the heat longer. The massage therapist stores their stones in fresh water and heats them up in an electrical heating appliance. Heated massage stones may also be transported in an insulated container if the therapist frequently to their clients place to perform the therapy.
Volcanic stones are also used in hot stone massage therapy due to their outstanding ability to maintain heat. This property of volcanic stones also sees them used in sauna baths and in some water purifiers. These stones are generally smooth which is great to use in a hot stone massage therapy. As with other types of stones used in hot stone massage therapy, the therapists are extra careful of these stones as they may become too hot if left unattended.
Massage oils are also important in a hot stone massage therapy and the most commonly used are grape seed, olive, lavender and rose oils. Oils are used to lubricate the kneading and rubbing techniques. The scents of essential oils are important in the enhancement of the result of the therapy.

The hot stone massage therapy is also effective in flushing out excess toxin from your body. It has been a popular aid in treating several different types of diseases and disorders, like:

  • Chronic muscle pains
  • Anxiety, depression and stress
  • Back pain, lower back pain, constant muscle cramps
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sleep disorder
  • Arthritis
Whilst hot stone massage is for stress relief, it still has its limitations. It is not offered or suitable for everyone, specifically to hypertensive people. People who have high blood pressure should not go through a hot stone massage as the heated stones may affect their blood pressure.

So if in doubt, be sure to advise your massage therapist of any medical conditions before undertaking hot stone massage therapy.

We invite you to visit: for a listing of spa treatments, including our Aroma-Stone Therapy Massage performed in our Indigo Eco-Spa

Posted by:  Connie, Stevenswood Spa Director
February 14, 2013




When Hot Stone Massage Therapy Should Be Carefully Considered

Hot Stone Massage TherapyHot stone massage therapy is a great way to relieve stress. It is a natural and a very effective aid to release muscle tension and even emotional anxiety. Stress does not only drain you mentally and emotionally, it is also the source of physical pain.
Parts of your body may not seem to be have their full range of movement when they are stressed in your daily activities. The hot stone massage can treat that, after a good session of this type of massage therapy you may be able to get back to your normal life without stress and muscular or skeletal discomfort.
Many wellness clinics today offer various types of massage. Most of them focus on muscle and bone stimulation to relax and de-stress each part of the body.
Many massage clients gain complete recuperation from stress and body aches from a well performed hot massage therapy which uses therapeutic stones such as basalt, marble, or chakra. However, you need to carefully consider getting a hot stone massage if you feel are concerned about it’s effects on your body.

There are some body conditions that are not allowed in a hot stone massage therapy session, specifically hypertension.

The therapist will put hot stones on your body wherein body temperature will increase and if you have a high blood pressure trigging a high body temperature is not recommended.

You should be cautious in availing hot stone massage therapy when you have:

Hypertension. When your blood pressure is high, a hot stone massage session is not recommended to you. People with hypertension may not benefit from this style of massage session and may even be a detriment their health. Blood pressure may rise as body temperature does and putting a hot stones on your body will trigger a higher than normal body temperature.
Skin Conditions. You may need a doctor’s permission when you like to have a hot stone massage if you have a skin condition specifically if a skin inflammation.

The hot stones may trigger the inflammation and may worsen your skin condition. You need to treat your skin inflammation first when you want to have hot stone massage.

Pregnancy. You are not allowed to receive a stone massage when you are pregnant. During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is augmented as this helps shorten and soften the muscles in preparation for giving birth. The hot temperature and deep tissue stimulation during the massage lengthens these tissues, which makes it difficult for the pregnant woman’s body to prepare for birth.

We invite you to visit: for a listing of spa treatments, including our Aroma-Stone Therapy Massage performed in our Indigo Eco-Spa

Posted by:  Connie, Stevenswood Spa Director
February 14, 2013