What Type of Massage is Best for Releasing Trauma?

Trauma, whether from a singular event or recurring situation, can leave lasting impacts on the body and mind. The good news is that various types of massage therapy can help release traumatic tension, emotions, and memories stored in the tissues. By accessing the deeper levels of the body, massage can facilitate the release of lingering trauma responses.

For releasing trauma, the massage techniques that tend to be most effective are those that engage the parasympathetic nervous system and promote a sense of safety and relaxation. This allows the client to come out of the habitual “fight or flight” stress response that trauma often creates. Here are some of the top massage therapy modalities for trauma release:

Craniosacral Therapy: This gentle, hands-on technique works with the craniosacral system which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Using light touch, the therapist monitors the subtle rhythmic motions of the craniosacral system to detect restrictions and imbalances. This helps the body relax into a parasympathetic state so that deep trauma held in the nervous system can be released. The focus on listening and working slowly with the body’s inner wisdom makes it a soothing treatment for trauma.

Myofascial Release: Also using gentle, sustained pressure, myofascial release therapy focuses on releasing tension in the fascia or connective tissues. Trauma and chronic stress can cause the fascia to become restricted, and myofascial release helps hydrate and free up these tissues. This type of bodywork engages the parasympathetic nervous system and allows the client to relax into the treatment. As the tissues soften and restrictions release, emotional trauma may also be able to come to the surface and be let go.

Rosen Method Bodywork: This approach uses soft, nurturing touch along with verbal communication to help access emotions being stored in the body. The combination of nonjudgmental listening, gentle rocking and supported stretches allows the client to relax and feel safe enough to process difficult feelings. The therapist aims to create an empathetic environment where emotional trauma can be calmly explored and released.

Trauma-Informed Massage: More practitioners are receiving training in trauma-informed bodywork so they can adapt their modalities to be appropriate for trauma release. This includes providing clear communication, working slowly, prioritizing client safety and comfort, and allowing clients to be in control of the experience. Swedish massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and other techniques can be adapted to support trauma release in this caring way.

Somatic Experiencing: Not technically a hands-on massage, somatic experiencing uses tracking subtle body sensations along with gentle touch to release trauma. By bringing awareness to uncomfortable bodily sensations and following the flow of biological energy, traumatic activation can be discharged from the nervous system. This nervous system reset allows clients to return to a state of regulation after being triggered.

The key to releasing trauma through massage is creating an environment where the client feels safe, cared for, and in control. The therapist works slowly and gently to facilitate relaxation and release of chronic tension and stagnant energy patterns. While many modalities can be adapted to work with trauma release, those that access the deeper neurological pathways are often most effective at providing lasting relief to the body and mind. With the right approach, the healing power of touch can help integrate traumatic memories and restore a sense of peace.