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)
Head injury may change how your body signals to your brain, and back. Thus, TBI (traumatic brain injury) may make it hard to move, think and feel the way you used to. When this piles up, you may become emotionally unpredictable. Even balance or fatigue can make your body seem like a stranger’s. So, you must change the signals you are sending your brain. 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, what you do for yourself may either support what you intend for healing, or get in the way. So how you think about yourself, and whether you are able to calm yourself down when upset are important. These affect the brain and our mood. As well as our bodies and relationships with others.
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.
New Brain Pathways to Harness Healing
If 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 brain’s neuroplasticity to your benefit. For example, your imagination can be your friend. You might imagine a picture of yourself healed. Add prayer or meditation. Additionally, it is useful to welcome support from friends or family into your daily schedule. Thus, one step at a time, you climb the mountain of recovery.2
Can Massage Help Develop Neuroplasticity?
Well, maybe. Passive activities do not stimulate neuroplasticity.3 However, recent research shows that repeated movement with awareness of sensation can support brain injury recovery. Fortunately, Integration Massage sessions include several tools to help you make these beneficial changes.
First, I listen to you about what your goals are. Then we together plan the strategies to meet your goals. I keep listening with my hands as I work on your body. I give you the feedback of my awareness, so you can increase yours. Even breathing into tension under my hand helps. This is because when you locate tension in your body, you learn how to let it go with the breath.
Secondly, I use techniques which ease pain, reduces stress, and bring relaxation. Ortho-Bionomy® is always gentle. It stimulates your own self-corrective reflexes. This carries over after the session, as you start to sense what is more comfortable for you. Craniosacral therapy and massage are also soothing. They help to calm your nervous system.
Finally, you become able to integrate emotions with body sensations and awareness, called interoceptive awareness.4 To increase the benefit, I teach you to continue exercises at home. I also refer you to local educational activities, such as Brain Injury Alliance, which has support groups. Or to adaptive group exercise or yoga classes. As a result, you get the support you need to change your own brain in a style and at a pace that works for you.
More activities to support a healthy brain
- Enjoyable exercises, especially cardio, walking, group classes, interval training.
- Enjoyable smells; pleasant music, dancing or singing; artistic endeavors. These are both comforting and soothing. They also stimulate your brain. So you can connect the dots better to positive memories or to regain skills.
- Conscious relaxation, concentration or meditation.
- Social or spritual groups, community or support groups. These help heal certain frontal brain areas. And they also help you feel less alone.
- Volunteer. Contribute to someone less fortunate. Or, look for how you can be of some small service to family or friends. You may find that becomes the gift that keeps giving.
And more brain-healing practices! Your physician or health practitioner may advise you on these:
- good nutrition;
- 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. Or, you may schedule an appointment at a time of your convenience here: Schedule Appointment
1 Interventions for Clients with Movement Limitations, Ch.9 of Umphred’s Neurological Rehabilitation (see #3, below)
2 Contemporary Issues and Theories of Motor Control, Motor Learning and Neuroplasticity, Ch. 4 of Umphred’s Neurological Rehabilitation. (see #3, below)
3 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 on benefits of mindful body awareness for various populations with difficult conditions or trauma. http://www.cmbaware.org/about-mabt/