Public awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is growing. That’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, disability and the need for care of people with TBI is also growing. Sports-related injuries, war trauma, whiplash or concussion in an auto accident, even toxic chemicals and stroke can result in TBI.
Mild to moderate frontal brain injury, or frontal TBI may give people trouble with memory, reasoning, emotions, and social relations. It may even disrupt judgment, motivation, learning, and knowing what is important.1
Where did my world go? TBI and your family
Some people with frontal TBI may not be aware they suddenly have poor judgement and social skills. It becomes so hard to function, they may lash out in frustration. They not may notice they have a short fuse. Then, emotional outbursts make it hard to accomplish goals. Or it’s hard to focus on healing, to relearn lost skills. Other people with TBI are disoriented, like, “where did my world go?”
All of this takes a huge toll on family members and caregivers.2 In a TBI focus group survey, patients rated emotional issues as the single largest factor affecting quality of life.3
For a loved one who wants to understand these difficulties, read, 5 Things Every TBI Survivor Wants You to Understand.
TBI: Use the body to heal
I am myself a TBI survivor. I had the normal struggles with memory, reasoning and judgment, like others with TBI. In addition, I had lost social and emotional skills. That made me feel cut off from the world, from humanity.
Eventually, I found that body awareness was the key to regain emotional intelligence. I first watched others carefully. Then I noticed my own body shifts. Gradually, I learned to recognize my own emotions, then emotions in others.
I became a massage therapist in 2009. Soon, I noticed one of my TBI clients benefited from learning the bodywork and mind-body practices I taught him. This intrigued me–how did it happen so quickly for him? So I enrolled in a year-long course in 2012: Functional Neurology for Bodyworkers. And the light went on.
How can touch therapies or Ortho-Bionomy® help with TBI?
Massage and touch therapies are not just skin deep. Sense receptors, fascia and lymph tissues under your skin are well supplied with nerves. They communicate with other nerves and tissues all over your body. Consequently, touch affects not just muscles, but also mood. It brings benefits for pain, as well as your brain. It can stimulate joint movement, as well as gut movement.
When massage or Ortho-Bionomy® relieve pain and stress, you can focus and learn. You can sleep better. Depression and anxiety lift, as you start to feel more like your old self. Dr. Christopher Moyer in Affective Massage Therapy, says, “these (massage) effects on anxiety and depression are the most well-established effects in the MT (Massage Therapy) research literature.”
Body, mind and emotions with touch
The brain’s limbic system, which regulates emotions, may be affected by a TBI. Fortunately, it’s a two way street. It also receives signals from body sensations. Your brain interprets those signals. When you receive gentle, focused touch, your whole body relaxes. Your brain gets the idea. It perceives comfort and safety, so you can heal emotionally.
To support your healing, I listen to you. I ask what you want. Together, we identify your goals, and what is reasonable to accomplish each session. I then work with you to meet your goals. This sense of moving in the direction of benefit activates your brain for healing as well.
I also use touch and ask you to notice how sensation is connected to your emotions. This gives you access to a tool for change that you always carry around with you–your own body. Body awareness allows you to connect with your feelings, and improve your mood. This is sometimes called interoceptive awareness.
It can be a huge relief to finally have that emotional roller coaster under control again.
TBI, Meditation and Your Brain
Meditation and mindfulness training are growing in popularity. And for good reason. They help people with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, various chronic diseases and pain. Is it any wonder they also help the brain?
Not only does meditation improve happiness, it also improves altruism, our social glue of caring. More importantly, for people with TBI, research shows that mindfulness training decreases mental fatigue, improves quality of life, and reduces depression. And it even helps TBI family members and care partners cope better with stress.
If you don’t already have a meditation practice, I suggest gentle breathing exercises. Perhaps mindful walking, yoga, Tai Chi or QiGong. Or gardening, playing with your dog, nature hikes, music or art.
Ortho-Bionomy® bodywork and mind-body exercises are done fully clothed for your comfort. I also look for other ways your body can find greater ease and balance.
For example, I might ask you to compare sensation between your left and right shoulder. Then I ask you to notice what happens as I move your shoulder. I will explain the Ortho-Bionomy® principle behind the release of shoulder tension to make sure you understand. Soon, you learn to position your body for comfort yourself. Getting comfortable sends your brain a signal that it’s safe to heal, essential for recovery from the trauma of TBI.
TBI recovery at Integration Massage, as part of your care team
If you are a TBI survivor or family member, I invite you to call me with questions or a free consultation, 503-708-2911.
Or, you may schedule an appointment here: Schedule Appointment
1 Wikipedia: Affective Neuroscience.
2 Traumatic Brain Injury: Unmet Support Needs of Caregivers and Families in Florida
3 Traumatic brain injury patient-reported outcome measure: relevant health-related quality-of-life issues.