Neuroplasticity, Brain Injury, Massage

yay-12759848Brain Injury and Neuroplasticity

The ability of the nervous system to adapt, change and repair itself is called neuroplasticity. Brain injury has it’s own challenges for recovery, and 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 signals connect between your brain and body. Thus, it may short-circuit intentional movement, thinking and emotions. Perhaps you become emotionally unpredictable. Or perhaps balance or fatigue make your body seem like a stranger’s. So, you must change the signals. Part of that is retraining the body. Another part is retraining the mind. Loving thoughts, developing compassion, self care exercise and patience all help. 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 adaptive neuroplasticity. (for example, see Dr. Jon Lieff posts on neuroplasticity and Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself) It takes teamwork. There is not much research on how massage therapy can contribute. For this reason, Integration Massage will be conducting case study research with the intention to contribute to what is known about 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. They include my awareness of your nervous system response. I then support your awareness of how to heal. Ortho-Bionomy teaches you to seek comfort. Craniosacral therapy, and massage are 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. Sensory awareness allows you to regain voluntary control. It empowers you to let go. 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, on your doctor’s prescription. We are also proud to volunteer with the Returning Veterans Project. Give me a call if Integration Massage could be part of your neuro recovery team. I look forward to hearing from you: 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. Older editions are available here as a free download.
4  Cynthia Price, PhD has done research that shows the benefits of mindful body awareness for people with cancer, with HIV, recovering from drug addiction or substance abuse, and other health challenges.

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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