Trauma healing exercises

4 At-Home Somatic Therapy Exercises for Trauma Recovery

Trauma can live in your mind and body. Working on releasing these holds may help you heal from a traumatic event.

Healing from trauma — while challenging — is possible. Somatic therapy may help.

If you’re working on resolving trauma, reaching out to a mental health professional who specializes in somatic therapy may help you heal. But if this isn’t possible right now, you could also practice a few at-home exercises based on this therapeutic approach.

By tuning into your bodily sensations, you can release traumatic energy.

There are a few therapeutic approaches for healing from trauma.

Somatic therapy is a body-focused approach that may be particularly helpful if you have symptoms of chronic stress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Somatic therapy, aka somatic experiencing, was originally developed by Peter Levine in the late 1970s. It was conceptualized as an alternative to other trauma-focused therapies — which, although effective for some people, didn’t work for everyone.

Somatic experiencing may allow you to revisit trauma without recalling specific events and emotions.

When you practice these body-focused exercises, you focus on physical sensations, instead of thoughts and emotions as you’d do in talk therapy, or your fears as you’d do with exposure therapy.

Trauma is “when too much happens too soon for the nervous system to process,” says Valerie Candela Brower, a licensed professional counselor and certified somatic experiencing practitioner in Southbury, Connecticut.

“It’s like eating a big meal and not fully digesting it, but then eating another big meal, and then another,” Candela Brower explains. “The body does not digest what has happened and instead, we stuff our feelings, numb out, or deny reality.”

In some cases, talking about trauma without adequate support, or with a therapist that isn’t trained in trauma, may retraumatize you, according to Candela Brower. “Somatic work offers the body time and space to complete whatever it needed to do at the time that it didn’t get to do.

Somatic experiencing also helps you realize if you’ve been “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze response. This could lead to symptoms of chronic stress, in addition to those linked to trauma.

One of the main goals of somatic experiencing is to develop a body/mind connection and increase your ability to regulate your emotions. This can help you manage some of your most distressing symptoms.

Emerging research suggests that somatic therapy can be effective for people who’ve experienced trauma:

  • A 2017 study in 63 people found that somatic experiencing helped relieve symptoms of PTSD and depression.
  • Another 2017 study in 91 people living with lower back pain and PTSD suggests that a brief somatic experience (in addition to other treatments) may lessen back pain and relieve some PTSD symptoms.

Impact of trauma

If you’ve experienced trauma, you may develop some of these symptoms or challenges:

  • excessive crying
  • irritability, anger, or fearfulness
  • flashbacks or replaying the experience in your mind
  • nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • alcohol or drug use as a way to cope
  • physical symptoms like stomach pain or headaches
  • chronic fatigue
  • hypervigilance
  • jumpiness, excessive sweating, or a racing heart rate

A large, nationally representative sample study in 2019 suggests that the chances of developing PTSD after a traumatic event may be greater for white, Black, and Afro-Caribbean women than men in those groups. These gender differences aren’t seen among Latinos or Asians. Further research is needed to explain cultural and contextual factors.

It’s highly recommended that you start somatic therapy with the help of a trained therapist. This can help you customize your approach to your specific trauma, emotions, and symptoms. It may also feel safer if any unexpected emotions come up.

According to Peter Levine, a therapist is trained and focused on creating a safe space for you. However, when you practice somatic exercises for a long time with a therapist, it’s possible to get attached to them and might feel it’s the only place you feel totally safe.

That’s why Levine thinks it’s important for therapists to teach tools and exercises that may help you feel safe on your own, too.

Keeping the above in mind, here are some somatic therapy exercises you could consider practicing at home:

Grounding exercises help you center and anchor yourself to the present moment. This could help you take your mind off past events that are causing you distress.

Grounding may be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, and dissociation symptoms.

Here are a few grounding techniques to try at home:

  • Run water over your hands. Start by running cold water over your hands. Focus on how the temperature feels on each part of your hand, from your wrist to your nails. Switch to warm water and focus on how the sensation on your hands changes. Do this for a few minutes until you calm down.
  • Move your body in ways that feel most comfortable to you. This can include jumping up and down, dancing, jogging in place, or stretching. As you move, focus on how your body feels. You can do this with a body scan: Start with your toes and go all the way up your face, one body part at a time.
  • Focus on your breathing while you control how you inhale and exhale. You can start by inhaling to the count of 4, holding for 3 seconds, and then exhaling for another count of 4. You could also repeat what you consider a happy word after each inhalation. For example, safe, peace, easy, or gone.
  • Tense and relax different parts of your body. For example, press your feet to the ground as hard as you can for a few seconds. Release the pressure and notice how your feet feel now. You can also squeeze the arms of your chair as tightly as you can and then slowly relax and let go.
  • Play a “categories” game with yourself. Think of different categories of things — for instance, dogs, states, or cities — that begin with a chosen letter. Don’t switch to a new letter until you’ve identified at least 5 objects that start with that letter.

Resourcing is about tuning into specific body sensations that may be the opposite of what you’re experiencing at the moment. This is typically a long process that a therapist helps you with, but practicing specific exercises at home could aid you in starting the process.

You’ll want to start these techniques with a certified somatic therapist, but after, you can use these at-home exercises to complement your treatment.

You can use both resourcing and visualization anytime you experience distressing thoughts, emotions, or body sensations. By focusing on creating a “safe” sensation in your mind and body, you can relieve some distress.

These exercises may take practice. You may want to start by doing them when you’re not in the midst of distress. That way, it could be easier to reproduce the sensations when you need to.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Create a safe place in your mind. You can do this by going back to a time and place when you felt safe and happy. You could also come up with a new safe place that you haven’t experienced yet. Think about its colors, smells, and textures. Feel your body there and focus on how comfortable you feel.
  • Think about people you care about that make you feel at peace. You could start by looking at photos of them or focusing on specific memories you share.

In general, emotional self-regulation is about guiding yourself through your emotions so you can shift gears when they’re leading you to feel distressed. Within somatic therapy, self-regulation is about the nervous system.

Unresolved trauma may lead to dysregulation of the autonomous nervous system. This may mean you’re on high alert all the time. In turn, you might react to everyday stress and events in a way that’s connected to your past trauma.

According to the somatic experiencing approach, talk therapy may not always be able to access this complex body process. Instead, working with your physical senses could lead you to release and shift these patterns.

You can try some of these easy at-home techniques to help you self-regulate:

  • Hug yourself. To do this, cross your right arm over your chest, placing your hand near your heart. Then, cross your left arm, placing your left hand on your right shoulder. According to Levine, this can make you feel contained, which may make you feel safe. Hold the hug for as long as you need.
  • With your hand in a cupping position, tap your body all over, from your feet to your head. You can also try squeezing different parts of your body, instead of tapping them. This will help you with grounding, but also help your body recognize your boundaries — which can also give you a sense of being contained and safe.

Candela Brower describes body scans as an “active meditation” that may help you relax.

Here’s how to practice body scanning:

  1. Start by getting comfortable, possibly in a seated position. Close your eyes.
  2. Focus on your lower body. Notice how your feet feel on the floor. Slowly, move your attention to your ankles, knees, thighs, and then pelvis. Identify temperature, pressure, tension, and any other sensations as you move up your body.
  3. When you feel any tension, take a deep breath and exhale as you release it. When you feel the body part relax, you can move to the next one.
  4. When you finish with your lower body, do the same with your upper body. Include some of your internal organs like your stomach, heart, and lungs.
  5. Finally, end by focusing on your neck, head, and face.

Somatic therapy may help you manage symptoms of trauma and chronic stress.

Although some somatic experiencing exercises can be done on your own, to truly benefit from this approach, it’s recommended that you work with a trained therapist.

If you want to find a certified somatic therapist, the SE International Practitioner Directory may help.

Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) | Mindbody Toolkit

Before embarking on any trauma release practices please contact us or your healthcare professional to ensure they are suitable. If you struggle with complex psychological issues or trauma please only do these exercises under the supervision of a qualified TRE® practitioner.

TRE® or Trauma and Tension Release Exercises, is a somatic body based practice for people suffering with stress, anxiety, trauma or PTSD. It doesn’t require talking about an event, feeling or issue, therefore it overcomes the language barriers that can bring up added stress. TRE® includes a series of easy stretches using the muscles of the lower body and builds up a little shaking in the legs. Once the body is shaking, you lie on the floor, and encourage these natural vibrations to move through the body, without trying to control them. Most people enjoy the sensation of shaking; for some, they report a physical or emotional release, without becoming overwhelmed by the process.

The TRE® mechanism, or shaking ability, exists in all mammals and humans. It is the body’s most natural and organic way of unravelling contracted or tight stress patterns, as well as reducing the charge of stress hormones and unhealthy chemical build up, bringing the body back into it’s natural balance and a stable condition.

TRE® is recommended for anyone who is feeling stressed, anxious or traumatized (including those who have witnessed other people’s trauma).  It helps those who suffer from pain, inflammation or tightness in their body. It can also help people who have health, financial, family or housing concerns as well as addiction. If you have been involved in a vehicle or work place accident it can help to overcome the stress and trauma that comes with an accident. So in short, TRE® can help anyone who might be at a point in life where stress, overwhelm, anxiety and pain is compromising their health and wellbeing.

After practicing TRE® people often use the words ‘grounded’, ‘relaxed’ and ‘calmer’ to describe their feelings. After a period of several months people have reported relief from illnesses such as Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Eczema and IBS. People who suffer from migraines, headaches, back pain etc can experience relief from pain as well as relief from emotions like fear, anger, worry and anxiety.

Every individual has their own history of trauma and stress which means that some people may require more sessions of TRE® with a practitioner and some are just able to learn it and then do the exercises by themselves. Once the technique is learned and regulated, it is recommended to continue with TRE® a few times a week (or when required) as a self-help tool for good health, resiliency and freedom from stress.

Are You Experiencing A Long Term Pain Condition?

Many people who have experienced trauma also suffer with persistent or chronic pain.

Pain that has been present for more than 3 months is often, approximately 80%, related to altered functioning of the nervous system. Pain from whatever cause initially can get stuck in an 'ON' position and doesn't respond to the normal medications or physical therapy prescribed for pain. However, there is a solution to help you Change Your Pain.

Built from the latest scientifically backed research and lived experience we have a CHANGE YOUR PAIN TOOLKIT that contains all the knowledge, tools and techniques to reprogram the body's pain signals.

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Rehabilitation after injuries (post-traumatic rehabilitation)

In the life of every person there are unexpected and unpleasant moments that lead to bruises, dislocations, bone fractures and damage to the musculoskeletal system.

Most of the injuries of the musculoskeletal system require surgical or conservative treatment. Successfully performed operation, correct reposition and cast is only the beginning of treatment. In most cases, patients who have suffered an injury require a complex of restorative measures. This is due to the fact that prolonged immobilization, lack of exercise, vascular and other changes lead to muscle atrophy, limited joint mobility, and trophic changes in the limb. The success of the treatment of an injury by more than half depends not only on the quality of the operation or reposition, but also on a well-performed post-traumatic rehabilitation . A fused fracture, reduced dislocation, does not always mean recovery. It often happens that the consolidation of the fracture has occurred, and the function of the limb is absent.

In domestic clinical medicine, one of the fundamental principles is anthropotherapy - the treatment of a sick person, proposed and developed by the luminaries of domestic science and practice M. Ya. Mudrov, G. A. Zakharyin, S. P. Botkin and others. , it is necessary to treat not only a fracture of a particular bone, but also a patient with a fracture, bearing in mind the various0005 injury and consequences of physical inactivity. At the heart of the development of many disorders of the body's activity and hypodynamia is a decrease in the intensity and even a perversion of kinesthetic stimuli, which leads to a violation of the dynamic stereotype of physiological functions, the basis of which are motor-visceral reflexes. This also includes the depressed state of the psyche, due to the severity of the injury, fear of consequences, pain syndrome.

Significant changes occur in the activity of the circulatory organs. The blood circulation in the injury zone worsens due to the existing reflex muscle tension in this area, the stroke volume of the heart and the minute volume of blood circulation, the blood flow rate (especially in venules and small veins), the mass of circulating blood decrease, while its viscosity and coagulability increase. Ventilation deteriorates, the vital capacity of the lungs decreases, which affects primarily the central nervous system, which is most sensitive to ventilation disorders.

Hypodynamia slows down the resorption of the hematoma formed during trauma, adversely affects the state of the muscular system with the development of hypotension and malnutrition.

The degree of functional disorders depends on the location and severity of the damage, the method of fixation of bone fragments or the technique of surgical intervention, and the age of the patient.

The goal of restorative treatment is to achieve stable normalization of impaired human functions, as well as social functions and ability to work, in the appropriate time frame. Main methods rehabilitation after injuries are physiotherapy exercises (exercise therapy), manual therapy, massage, physiotherapy, mechanotherapy, labor therapy, psychotherapy.

An important role in the prevention and elimination of post-traumatic changes is played by physical exercises - specially organized for a specific purpose and strictly dosed movements. They are one of the important factors that support the vital activity of a healthy person and stimulate regenerative and compensatory mechanisms in the body of a sick person, since all adaptive processes are involved through the system of central regulations to ensure homeostasis.

IP Pavlov noted that movement is a natural function necessary for the existence of a person, affecting the entire body and relating to "the main reactive activity of the body."

Regular exercise creates dominant foci of excitation in the cerebral cortex, which, by the mechanism of negative induction, leads to suppression of foci of congestive excitation, i.e. eliminates "pain points".

The systematic use of physical exercises in the complex treatment of a patient eliminates the negative effect of physical inactivity on the body, has a versatile beneficial effect.

Rhythmic contraction and relaxation of skeletal muscles, tension and relaxation of tendons help to improve venous outflow, prevent venous stasis, and normalize microcirculation in tissues.

Physical exercise prevents the development of atrophy and degenerative changes in tissues and organs.

When choosing an exercise therapy technique, a number of factors must be taken into account. The nature and severity of injury , the stage of the pathological process, the physical and mental state of the patient, his physical fitness. A set of exercises should be compiled strictly individually, taking into account the phase of the process.

In the treatment of injuries of the musculoskeletal system, methods of physiotherapy are widely used. In the early stages after injuries, UHF, ultrasound, and magnetotherapy are used. This allows you to reduce swelling, improve microcirculation in the injured limb, and reduce pain. After the termination of immobilization, electrophoresis, phonophoresis with various drugs, laser therapy, electrical muscle stimulation are prescribed.

Massage and manual therapy allow you to strengthen muscles, make them more elastic, restore or increase the range of motion in the joints, correct muscle imbalance that occurs after a long forced position of the spine and limbs.

Rehabilitation treatment should begin as early as possible, rather than waiting for fracture consolidation, immobilization, or removal of sutures. Ideally, on the second or third day after injury or surgery. The earlier rehabilitation measures are started, the better the result.

MRC "Belyayevo" has a well-equipped gym, a physiotherapy department equipped with modern equipment, a diagnostic base, and qualified personnel. Treatment is carried out under the supervision of orthopedic traumatologists.

In the treatment of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, a modern method of immobilization "3M" using polymeric materials - "plastic gypsum" is used.

6 exercises to prevent pain and injury in the gym

October 16, 2022 Sports and fitness

You never do them, but you should.

Iya Zorina

Author of Lifehacker, athlete, Candidate Master of Sports

You can deadlift with a 200 kg barbell, and then look over your shoulder and pull the neck muscle. You can be proud of the wide swinging deltas, and then abruptly grab the handrail on the bus and earn shoulder pain for many months.

There are many muscles in our body, and the small ones matter as much as the ones you use to press, pull, and squat. You are approaching imbalances and injuries without paying attention to small muscle groups.

The exercises below will help you strengthen them and develop joint mobility.

And they are suitable for absolutely everyone: both experienced strength athletes, beginners, and even those who do not play sports at all, but want to reduce the risk of injuries in everyday life, improve posture and make their body flexible and healthy.

You can do all these exercises separately on different days or do them all together in one workout. Repeat each of them 1-2 times a week. In exercises with weights, gradually increase the working weights, and in movements with your body weight - the complexity or number of repetitions in the approach.

1. Gluteal L-Bridge

Most often in the gym and in everyday life, the hips move back and forth. For example, while walking, running, squats, lunges. Movements in the frontal plane - from side to side - are much less common. As a result, the muscles responsible for abduction and adduction of the legs are less developed than those that flex and extend them.

Gluteal L-Bridge is aimed at working out the gluteus medius muscles responsible for abducting the leg to the side. Strengthening these muscles will help you increase your squat, deadlift, and lunge performance, as well as take some of the stress off your lower back.

In addition, the exercise will show if you have problems with hip mobility and help increase your range of motion.

  • Lie on the floor on your back, bend your legs and place your feet, place your hands palms down.
  • Lift your pelvis off the floor and lift it as high as possible, tighten your buttocks at the top.
  • Lift one leg off the floor, bend it at the knee at a right angle and pull the knee closer to the body.
  • Keeping your glute muscles tight, move your raised thigh to the side as if you were going to put it on the floor. Hold for a second, return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Try to keep the pelvis in place, do not let it twist and tilt.
  • Move slowly and under control, keeping the glute muscles tight.
  • Do three sets of six reps for each leg.

2. Side Plank Raise with Legs Raised

People love to fold their abs and stand in a classic plank in an attempt to build beautiful packs. In this case, the oblique muscles of the abdomen are often left without attention. Moreover, girls are afraid to make body turns so as not to spoil their waist.

Nevertheless, it is an important part of the muscular corset, which stabilizes the core in a wide variety of exercises.

Side Plank Raises work your obliques well and also strengthens your inner thighs, which will have a positive effect on your squatting weights.

  • Find a small foothold, lie on your side and place one hand on your forearm.
  • Place your upper leg on the support with a slight bend at the knee. Straighten your bottom leg.
  • Using your elbows, rise into a side plank position and join your legs.
  • Lower back down and repeat.
  • Perform three sets of 10 reps on each side.

3. Double Bench Reverse Plank

The small muscles of the neck and upper back are often overlooked in strength training, so despite heavy deadlifts and pull-ups with weights, people get injured in everyday life from some then simple movements or suffer from pain in the neck and shoulders.

This exercise will help strengthen the neck flexors, rhomboids under the trapezium, small rear delts, middle trapezius, and teres minor, part of the rotator cuff.

  • Place two benches or two chairs (if doing at home) about shoulder width apart.
  • Sit on the floor between the benches, place your shoulders on them so that the edges are under the armpits.
  • Raise your pelvis so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to the top of your head.
  • Pull your neck up, press your elbows on the benches so that your chest comes forward.
  • Keep your hips high, don't let your pelvis sag.
  • Hold this position for 15 seconds, then rest for a minute and repeat two more times.

To increase the load, move the benches a few centimeters further apart. Even a small change will make the exercise much more difficult.

4. Rows with arm raises

This exercise also works on weak back and neck muscles, improves posture and strengthens the rotator cuff muscles for joint stability in various exercises.

  • Sit on a low bench or kneel in front of the compound machine and grasp the rope handle. Straighten your back, hold the handle in outstretched hands. If you are working out at home, you can take a tape expander and hook it to something not high from the floor.
  • Pull the handle up to eye level while spreading the ropes out to the sides.
  • Raise your arms up to full elbow extension, then lower back and repeat.
  • Keep your elbows wide and keep your back in a neutral position: do not slouch or arch your back.
  • Drop your shoulders, do not pull them up to your ears.
  • Move slowly and under control.
  • Do three sets of five with a 1-2 minute rest in between.

5. Rolling the medicine ball onto your back

Upper body strength exercises often cause the shoulders to stiffen: the muscles become stiff and stuffed so that you can't even get your hands behind your head. Lack of shoulder mobility will prevent you from doing many exercises such as snatch, Turkish kettlebell raise, medicine ball throws.

In addition, an imbalance in the body increases the risk of inflammation and pain.

Rolling the medicine ball will help stretch stiff and strengthen weak muscles that are left unused in most strength exercises.

  • Lie on your stomach with a medicine ball in your hands. For starters, a light projectile is suitable (from 1 to 5 kg, depending on your level of training).
  • Hold the medicine ball in bent arms next to the head, elbows wide apart.
  • At the same time lift your legs and arms with the medicine ball off the floor and place the ball on your upper back. Take a short break and return to the starting position.
  • Keep your chin tucked in and your neck straight. The neck can automatically stretch forward towards the floor. This is a compensatory movement that should be avoided.
  • Keep your elbows wide at all times. If you do bicep curls instead, you won't get any benefit.
  • Perform three sets of 10 reps with 1-2 minutes rest in between.

6. Passing the pancake from hand to hand

This exercise will also help you develop shoulder mobility and move freely.