Trauma – Part 2: Physical Symptoms of Trauma
Updated: Jun 9
Let’s talk a little about the connection between our physical bodies and trauma.
It took me a long time to make the connection between my low back pain and trauma that I experienced as a child. I was never physically harmed to cause back pain. But a series of events – mostly emotional – that made me feel unsafe are what triggered my low back pain. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I really started to dive into the emotional healing aspect of my physical body. I had been feeling like I wasn’t able to reach the underlying issue of my back, the best way I can describe it is a glass barrier between me and the emotional trauma – I just couldn’t reach it to work through it on my own. So then, I started doing more acupuncture and energy work to help.
Too often it is thought that our mind and body are separate entities. Sometimes in the Western Medical world, if a patient has pain but there is no known pathology it can be suggested that they are ‘making up’ the pain or that ‘its all in your head’. Fortunately, this in not the case in Chinese Medicine. The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected; in order to heal one you need to be aware of all three.
Some common physical manifestations of latent trauma include:
I have a patient who came in for acupuncture because she was experiencing severe muscle tension. As we went through her health history I discovered that she experiences anxiety as well. So I started to dig a bit deeper about when the anxiety started, it started at a very specific time in her life. I asked if she could remember any traumatic events that happened around her teen years. And not surprisingly, she did. She was assaulted by a man when she was in her teens. So even though muscle tension was her chief complaint, it and the anxiety were merely a manifestation of a significant trauma in her life. She had suffered from anxiety for years and was only prescribed medication – it was masking the real issue. Latent Trauma.
This example is unfortunately so common in patients that come in. Now, not all physical pain is trauma related. But for that stubborn pathology that you are experiencing and having no luck healing, it might be beneficial to look back over your past and figure out when it might have started and why. Sometimes it takes a trained professional or another set of eyes to make that connection.
It is also important to make sure you remember that if you do think your physical pain is trauma related, it isn’t your fault. You didn’t create this pain. It is simply your body’s way of coping. It is common for some people to not even know/remember they experienced a traumatic event because our brain blocks it out in order to survive. So please know that you did not do this to yourself.
Acupuncture can help decrease physical symptoms related to trauma in a few ways. It depends on the pathology – chronic pain and digestive issues are treated differently – but all the treatments will include some acupuncture points to help release the trauma and calm the mind, as well as the physical issue you are experiencing. When you come in for a treatment, I will discuss with you further what the treatment plan will look like specific to you. I will dive into it a bit more next week.
Additional Blog posts in Trauma Series
Trauma – Part 1: What is Trauma?
Online February 1, 2018
Trauma – Part 3: Trauma in Chinese Medicine.
Online February 15, 2018
Trauma – Part 4: Therapies other than Acupuncture.
Online February 22, 2018
Healing Trauma: A Five Spirit Approach – Lorie Eve Dechar
Trauma and Recovery in the Context of Chinese Medicine; Interpretations of current Neuro-biological and Psychotherapy Models of the Traumatized Mind – Darren Tellier
The Psyche in Chinese Medicine – Maciocia
Broken Brain – Mark Hyman