Neuroplasticity, Brain Injury, Massage

yay-12759848Brain Injury and Neuroplasticity

The ability of the nervous system to adapt, change and repair itself is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means you can change how your own brain functions. When you have had a brain injury, what you can do for yourself is key. But you don’t have to do it alone. Integration Massage has the knowledge and experience to help. (Bodywork and Mild Frontal TBI, or Functional Neurology Massage and Head Injury or Neuroscience of Empathy, Emotions, Touch)

Nervous system injury may change how your body signals to your brain, and back. Thus, nervous system injury, such as TBI (traumatic brain injury) may make it hard to move, think and feel the way you used to. Or, perhaps you become emotionally unpredictable. Or perhaps balance or fatigue make your body seem like a stranger’s. So, you must change the signals. Changing the signals can be done by retraining the body.

However, much progress can also be made by retraining the mind. Meditation and mindfulness support beneficial brain changes. Also, loving thoughts, developing compassion, self care, and patience all help. These changes in attitude help reduce anxiety as well as pain.

In general, neuroplastic responses may either support what you intend for healing, or get in the way. These are canstockphoto0881420called adaptive and maladaptive responses.

In the last 20 years, there has been an explosion of research on how to rewire the brain and nervous system for the greatest benefit. For example, see Dr. Jon Lieff posts on neuroplasticity and Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself. In working with a therapist, it takes teamwork.

However, there is not much research on how massage therapy can contribute. For this reason, Integration Massage will be conducting case study research. The purpose will be to find out what more can improve brain injury recovery.

New Pathways for Neuroplasticity

climbing the mountain of neuroplasticityIf you have had a brain injury, you know it is harder to do what used to be easy. As starters, you may need to drive during off peak times, turn off the TV, change work schedule, modify expectations, or simplify tasks.1

Despite these challenges, there are some innovative ways that you can harness the brains’s neuroplasticity to your benefit. For example, your imagination can be your friend. You might imagine a picture of yourself healed. Add a humorous character. Or invite a trusted spiritual mentor to guide you. Add prayer or meditation and support from friends or family to your daily schedule. Thus, one step at a time, you climb the mountain of recovery.2 As you regain a sense of empowerment, you restore confidence, quality of life, emotional and social balance.

Can Massage Help Develop Neuroplasticity?

Well, maybe. Passive activities do not stimulate neuroplasticity.3 However, Integration Massage sessions include movement exercises you can practice at home. These include my awareness of how your body changes. I then support your awareness of how to heal.

Additionally, Ortho-Bionomy teaches you to seek comfort. Craniosacral therapy, and massage are also soothing and help your emotions calm down. They ease pain, reduces stress, bring relaxation. By enhancing the parasympathetic state (“rest and digest”), they support you to create change.

Integrative techniques such as breathing into the area of tension increase your awareness. How does that help? Sensory awareness allows you to regain voluntary control. It also empowers you to let go of tension. This is the first step to integrate emotions with body sensations and awareness, called interoceptive awareness. “Interoceptive awareness is the ability to access and process sensory information from the body. Interoceptive awareness and self-care skills can be particularly helpful for individuals living with chronic physical or mental health conditions.”4

More activities to support a healthy brain


  • conscious breathing;
  • enjoyable smells;
  • pleasant music, or singing;
  • artistic endeavors
  • volunteer to contribute to the community
  • conscious relaxation, concentration or meditation

And more brain-healing practices! Your physician or health practitioner may advise you on these:

  • good nutrition;
  • acupuncture;
  • massage;
  • physical therapy to include balance exercises and athletic training;
  • herbs or medications or essential oils;
  • emotional reframing or processing

Integration Massage as part of your recovery team

Integration Massage can help you recover after a head injury or MVA. If you want it covered by insurance, I will need your doctor’s prescription. I am also proud to volunteer with the Returning Veterans Project.

If I could be part of your neuro recovery team, please call: 503-708-2911.

1  Interventions for Clients with Movement Limitations, Ch.9 of Umphred’s Neurological Rehabilitation (see #3, below)
Contemporary Issues and Theories of Motor Control, Motor Learning and Neuroplasticity, Ch. 4 of Umphred’s Neurological Rehabilitation.  (see #3, below)
Umphred DA, Galantino ML. Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Beyond Traditional Approaches to Intervention in Neurological Diseases and Movement Disorders. In: Umphred DA, Lazaro RT, Roller ML, Burton GU, eds. Umphred’s Neurological Rehabilitation, 6th ed. St. Louis: Elsevier Mosby. Jan 2013;1173-1214. Does that sound too hard? Well, older editions are also available here as a free download.
4  Cynthia Price, PhD has done research that shows the benefits of mindful body awareness. She includes people with cancer, HIV, recovering from substance abuse. She also includes vets with PTSD.

If massage has helped you heal, or develop neuroplasticity, feel free to share below. Your contact information will remain confidential, and will not be published unless you include it in the text of your comment.
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