Dealing with Trauma

Last night I had dinner with friends.  One was recovering from a bad motorbike accident a few days earlier that left him bruised, with several broken bones. My friend was particularly agitated because he had only just begun a new fitness regimen – and now all that hard word would be lost.  He was in pain, frustrated, impatient and determined to heal.

We discussed his options.  He understands muscle ‘memory’ and is concerned that ‘memories’ of the accident will make it difficult to regain the strength and flexibility he had prior to the accident.  My friend isn’t certain what sort of physical therapy he’ll have – he’s still waiting to find out if he’s going to have to undergo surgery – but he’s anxious to do whatever he can to encourage healing.  He wondered if body therapy in the form of Rolfing might be of benefit.

I had two bits of contrary advice:

Rest. Give the body time to process. The physical trauma is recent – only days old – and the body is still trying to figure out what happened.  That’s true on an emotional level as well.  When trauma occurs we need time – at least seventy-two hours, longer depending on the injury – for our physical body and our spirit to process what has happened and how our life might change.

Keep moving. The longer he stays still, the more time his connective tissue has to tighten.  So move.  Even a little.  And as silly as it sounds, the more you move, the more you’ll move.  (If you want to know more about connective tissue and why we must include a flexibility practice in our fitness regime watch The Fuzz Speech.)

My third bit of advice falls between the first two:

Multi-task. I told my friend that as soon as he can climb on a table, to book a massage appointment.  A soothing massage will rest the nervous system and manipulate the muscle fibers – it will increase circulation and help break up forming adhesions and scar tissue.

And Rolfing?

Funny enough, when I woke up this morning I saw an article posted on Facebook by my friend and Rolfer Michael Murphy.  You can read the article here.  And you can meet Michael here.

One paragraph stood out:

In that regard, he said he viewed the treatment as an extension of practices like yoga, which also offers relief without drugs. “Yoga is in many ways analogous to Rolfing because it takes tendons and it stretches them into a position of discomfort,” Dr. Oz said. “They’re just doing it for you without your doing it yourself.”

So true!  Especially considering practices that include a Yin or Assisted Yin element. Assisted Yin combines yoga with massage.  Think slow motion Thai Massage.  The practitioner supports the client in Yin derived positions for up to five minutes.  The effect is a profound stretching of the connective tissue that breaks up scar tissue, dissolves adhesions and deeply soothes the nervous system.  The work can be challenging but is not painful.

Disclaimer:  I’ve never been Rolfed.  I don’t have an informed opinion.  My ideas regarding Rolfing are based on anecdotal evidence. I have, however, experienced the trauma of being thrown twenty feet off my bicycle by a moving vehicle.  Would I want to be Rolfed after that?  No thank you. Still, Rolfing appears to be an intensely powerful experience – one that I think I’d like to try.  But as far as my friend is concerned, my advice is for him to wait until his bones have healed and the bruising is gone.  The best thing he can do right now is practice gentle, mindful patience.

4 thoughts on “Dealing with Trauma

  1. I think the common misconception about Rolfing®, perhaps furthered by our exchange above, is that it HAS to be deep. Rolfing is best defined as a point of view about the body, and not a particular technique. If the client is just post-injury, then perhaps some forms of deep work are contraindicated. Or it may be that the area needing the release is quite superficial. In both cases, I would not try to do deep work, but rather focus on surface issues.

    Choose a practitioner with experience, and whom you trust deeply.


    • TOTAL misconception on my part! I had no idea and am really grateful you took the time to read this and to enlighten me. Thanks!


  2. I think much of what you have blogged makes sense, Mimm. I would discourage most folks from receiving deep work (Rolfing® or any other) right after a major trauma) unless the practitioner was well trained in post-injury or post-surgery work. Once the healing has begun, however (about the time the fuzz starts to set in 🙂 ) is an ideal time to see a Rolfer.



    • Thanks for confirming what my instincts were telling me. I think – and you may disagree – that it might be wise to begin with a gentle technique – I suggested Hendrickson to my friend…as a sort of “prep” for the deep Rolfing. Does that make sense or can simply jump into the deep end? (Pardon the pun).


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