Clinical Psychology and Massage Therapy
By Boris Prilutsky
The human body is a complex system that demands a “body and mind as one” approach when considering aspects of its functions and overall health. Nowadays due to constant over-stress, various emotional complexes, psychological, and/or physical trauma many people developing anxieties. A good clinical psychologist will listen to the patient, analyze the psychological aspects, and in many cases can help their clients by allowing them to realize the actual cause of the anxiety and/or teaching them different techniques and ways for managing the condition. However in many cases psychoanalysis alone is not sufficient in helping people getting rid of anxieties. Massage therapy proved to be an extremely effective means in treatments of anxiety and of many other psychological disturbances.
The importance of Incorporation of Massage Therapy and Psychoanalysis
In order to understand the importance of incorporating massage in the treatment of psychological disturbances, let’s analyze the clinical _expression of anxiety attack. Signs such as higher blood pressure, increased heart rate, respiratory rate, etc. always signify anxiety attacks. Frequently experiencing anxiety episodes (episodes of high blood pressure) will cause a lowering of the threshold level of the baroreceptors.
Baroreceptors can be found within arterial vessels and they determine vasoconstrictions or vasodilations. In people with history of the anxieties, the level of their sensitivity-Irritability in many cases determines how quickly and easily the external factors such as stress episodes, worry, irritation can manifest itself in anxiety attack. In other words people whose threshold of baroreceptors is high can withstand considerable amount of external and internal psychological disturbance, without being adversely affected, while as people with low threshold are affected quicker and their nervous system looses stability easier.
For example, let’s take a person who is suffering from anxiety due to some psychological trauma, and let’s assume that a very experienced clinical psychologist helps the patient to understand the true cause of his/her anxiety. In this case, psychotherapy can successfully bring the patients to a point where they are able to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of their anxiety. But at the same time this patient suffered through numerous repeated anxiety episodes for many years. Consequently, the threshold of his/her baroreceptors has to be very low. This means that any little amount of worry/irritation (even something as small as being cut off in traffic) can cause a slight rise in blood pressure/ heart rate, which in turn can trigger the full complex physical/mental/emotional phenomenon of anxiety attack.
If the stress factors ignited by the different kind of interferences will be propagated by the nerve patways to the CNS, the spontaneous reaction of the body would be vasoconstrictions, which would cause rise in blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate increase etc. The baroreceptor threshold of a healthy person is sufficiently high not to let the stress signal to be ignited to the significant pathological condition. However, on the person subjected to repeated anxiety attacks this threshold is low and even small disturbances would cause the distress signal to be ignited along with the negative effects following along.
Massage therapy is scientifically and clinically proven to be an effective means to break the vicious cycle in such a case. By repeating full-body stress management treatment sessions we reset the threshold of baroreceptors to a higher level, thereby reducing the possibility of spontaneously triggered episodes of full complex of anxiety attack.
Boria, here you should explain the mechanism of how the stress management treatment sessions reset the threshold of baroreceptors
Treatment causing re polarization of motor neuron, repetition of which” reprogramming” irritability of lower motor centers as well higher motor centers to the much higher level. As a result of this phenomena threshold of baroreceptors resetting to the higher level.
I think that, to a large degree, an anxiety attack is a sympathetic reaction. The phenomena of vasoconstriction, increase of stress hormone production, etc., are fully controlled by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Repeated massage therapy sessions is proven to be one of the most powerful methods for balancing activities between the divisions of the autonomic nervous system.
The aforementioned example shows that the physiological and psychological aspects of anxiety should be viewed as one cycle. Given the fact that the body and mind cannot be separated, and the fact that massage therapy provides an effective way to affect nervous system physiologically and (as a consequently physiologically), the integration of massage therapy into the treatment of anxiety is a must.
Body Cells Carry Emotional Memory
I found the theory that body cells carry emotional memories to be a true one. During my more than 30 years of clinical experience, numerous times I have witnessed the emotional reactions of my patients/clients to soft tissue mobilization. To more clearly explain this phenomenon, I would like to share one of my most interesting clinical experiences with you that supports the theory of emotional memory being carried body cells.
Over 20 years ago, I treated one of the world-renowned boxers of the time from a shoulder injury. The right shoulder had a severe sprain/strain case with suspicion of possible rotator cuff tear. As with all such cases, after 24 hours of cold application procedures (cold application must be applied no more than 10-15 minutes and must be repeated every two hours) we started intensive massage therapy on the unaffected side in order to awake vasomotor reflex that will express by increasing blood supply to the injured extremities. I began to follow the treatment protocol for the above-mentioned purposes, starting to mobilize all groups of rotator cuff muscles layer by layer, as well as the anterior, posterior, and middle part of the deltoid muscles. As he was receiving the massage therapy, suddenly this big, tough, extremely strong man started crying, vocalizing sounds like that of a little boy. He was confused and expressed his embarrassment at breaking down in tears. Being familiar with the theory that body cells carry emotional memory, I suggested to him to cry out whatever this emotional memory was. The sport clinical psychologist was informed of the incident. During his evaluation, this professional athlete, with the help of the psychologist, recovered a memory from his deep subconscious of an event that happened to him when he was eight years old. The brief story was that the boy’s grandfather (his mother’s father) once interrupted the constant fight between the boy’s father and alcoholic mother; his grandfather attacked his father with a hammer. Afterward, the father was delivered in very difficult condition to the hospital and the grandfather was arrested. During this period of time, the little boy future boxing champion fell, off his bicycle and hurt his left shoulder. Crying, he came to his mom who was screaming into the phone, and he asked for comfort because of the pain in his shoulder. His mother reacted in anger, and took his pleas as just whining for attention and she hit him with the phone a few times on this painful shoulder. All these years, on a subconscious level, this man carried difficult baggage in these memories of events related to losing the most important people in his life; his grandfather and father; and related to rejection by his mother. This kind of crying, emotional release tremendously helped this athlete to get rid of this subconscious trauma. This heavy baggage probably was terribly disturbing him and robbed him of a lot of happiness in his life through all his years without him even knowing that it existed. My experience has taught me that usually these emotional releases happen with people at the time when we perform massage (including deep tissue mobilization) in the inhibitory regime. Please be aware that emotional release may not be expressed by crying. Many clients may report to you that they have trouble sleeping and experience worry, or they may start shaking during the massage. Some of them will report unusual emotional sensitivity. Please explain to your clients that all above-mentioned reactions are very positive reactions and within the next few days of going through these reactions, they will feel a great deal better. Regarding the boxer whose case I presented to you, he later reported to me that he never thought that this subconscious baggage could destroy the quality and happiness of his life so much. He told me that thanks to this innocent massage therapy on the healthy shoulder, he was able to find peace within himself.
As you can see from this episode, clinical psychology approach alone wouldn’t be sufficient enough because of the emotional memories carried by the cells of his body. Presently, I receive professional referrals from clinical psychologists.
Dear colleagues, I would like to use this opportunity to encourage you to contact clinical psychologists in your neighborhoods and to offer them your services to incorporate massage therapy in their treatments. The Latin word “doctor” means educator. After being involved in many cases, it is clear to me that we should educate not only our clients about the power and importance of massage therapy, but also other health care practitioners
The entire “memory”, which was sufficiently complex, was stored somewhere in the brain and only was triggered as a result of a massage. If I were to design an organism, I’d only put a little part of the “memory” on the cell level, which basic purpose is, let’s say quite different than store memories, but I would place the most of the “experience” inside the organ that is specialized on dealing with memory. It’s like the shoulder cells could contain the memory address where the entire memory was stored. Then by activating the shoulder cell you triggered the process of loading the content of that remote memory address in the active memory, causing the aforementioned reaction
Then by activating the shoulder cell you triggered the process of loading the content of that remote memory address in the active memory, causing the aforementioned reaction.