Trauma and Your Body’s Natural Expression of Health

Your body has an innate vitality and naturally seeks health. Health is a process of dynamic equilibrium of interconnections involving your musculoskeletal, nervous, immune, vascular, lymphatic and internal organ systems, providing an overall sense of well being.

A trauma to your body’s state of health may occur when you encounter a stress of any form:

  • an illness, such as a respiratory infection (cold, flu), exacerbation of an underlying illness, as can happen with asthma, where diaphragmatic or rib restrictions further impede your breathing ability, or diabetes, when your gastrointestinal, vascular and lymphatic systems are disrupted
  • physical trauma, any kind of physical injury including unwanted touch, sexual violence and assault as well as motor vehicle accidents, sports or exercise related injuries
  • emotional and psychological trauma, especially for people of color, women and the LGBTQIPA community who continue to encounter discrimination and oppression, both subtle and overt

Trauma creates a stress response in the body, often in the form of contraction,  restricting the motion of the tissues in the body. This can lead to chronic tensions and multiple health issues. Any trauma can result in musculoskeletal discomfort/pain (such as headache, shoulder, or back pain), visceral pain (such as a stomach ache or abdominal pain), or general/vague symptoms such as fatigue, dis-connection to self and/or others, or feelings of being in a fog.

Your body’s natural healing ability enables you to make adjustments on its own to resolve traumas; however, your body may have a difficult time healing from a significant single or repeated traumas.

Traumas can be lodged into the very fabric of your body; you can carry the traumas for a long time and later experience significant physical discomfort/pain, triggers, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, or general/vague symptoms. Most of us intuitively understand that this occurs when the traumas are physical in nature, but now there is increasing acknowledgement that this also occurs when the traumas are psychological and emotional. For example, sometimes emotional pain may manifest as chest, shoulder, back and/or abdominal pain or throat tightness. An example that illustrates how long our bodies can hold trauma is birth trauma: for some infants the trauma is very visible, such as misshapen heads or torticollis, where a contracted neck muscles prevent the infant from using the full range of motion in the neck, even into adulthood; for other infants the birth trauma is not visible, and the effects of the trauma is carried into adulthood in less obvious but still significant ways. Physical, psychological and emotional traumas of childhood often go over-looked by the adults in our lives and ourselves into adulthood. Unresolved childhood traumas can lead to deeply held or repressed anger, fear, hate, sorrow and shame which disconnects us from ourselves and those around, affect our self-worth, inhibits us from trusting ourselves and others, and being present.

Because your body is resilient, compensatory mechanisms or habits develop to minimize pain and avoid further injury; for example through postural habits or more reliance on different muscles to accomplish the same tasks. For this reason, it may be difficult to pinpoint the original trauma itself, particularly when you experience multiple symptoms or areas of discomfort that may seemingly appear unrelated. Osteopathy can assist with understanding the inter-connections within your body; the various physical, mental, physical and energetic restrictions due to trauma and releasing what the body might no longer need; and establish a new dynamic equilibrium toward health and well being.