Body Armor In PTSD

Anyone who has sustained contact with a disordered person over time can relate to the concept of body armor-that involuntary tightening of the muscles that is part of the healthy flight/fight response to threat.

This response is especially prominent in those who have lived with a disordered person-dealing with mood swings, intensity, blaming, drama, invalidation, constant bids for attention, emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

Over time, the normal person who is the prime target of the disordered one’s malfeasance can not help but develop chronic tension in his or her muscles. Unless one exercises a great deal, this tension can create ongoing difficulties. Sadly, these difficulties can remain long after the “relationship” is over or contact is diminished or broken off.

What kind of problems result? I like to use the term body armor because it validates the person’s need to protect self on an ongoing basis. The level of tension that can accumulate from living with a disordered person creates aches, pains, muscles and tendons that are easily sprained or torn , and back problems of many kinds.

Frequently there are subsequent problems, such as headaches, PMS,  and muscle weakness. Some medical practitioners believe that fibromyalgia and other chronic muscle diseases are related to living with intense emotional stress. and research by the in the scientific mind-body field is needed to understand if this is so.

In my practice, I have seen and heard stories from women who have lived or are living with disordered men. They describe problems such as constant back issues, sore necks, ongoing injuries to arms and legs related to muscles asked to do work while they re already stretched in the flight/fight mode.

If you see yourself reflected in any of these descriptions, fortunately, there are many options. Unfortunately, women especially, who have lived with a disordered partner, are often reluctant to allocate tie and money on self-care-it seems indulgent. Or, their finances my have suffered as a result of the association with the disordered one.

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about whether or not it is in your best interest to address body armor physical issues:

1.     Body armor problems are treatable, and relief is highly likely. Most modalities mentioned below have excellent track records.

2.     Treatment of these problems now will most likely mean the avoidance of more serious or chronic problems in the future.

3.     Your physical, emotional health will benefit, as will your ability to be productive at work and home.

4.     You may regain the energy and, stamina and overall health to exercise regularly.

5.     It feels REALLY good to have a therapeutic massage, acupuncture, etc. even if there are intermittent periods of discomfort.

6.     “Treating” yourself to any kind of bodywork under the circumstances is good for your soul-it is a way of saying to yourself, “well, I have suffered but now I am taking really good care of myself.”

7.     The muscle pain and discomfort may be reduced and or go away!

There are too many kinds of bodywork to mention here. Different practitioners are available in different communities. If you can not afford the services of a trained professional, there are still options. One is to find a school of massage or acupuncture where well-supervised students can provide low cost or even free services.

Another option is to work out a buddy system with a trusted friend, with whom you can trade massages. Almost anyone can afford a hot bath; adding oils such as Arnica Montana, a common homeopathic remedy, often used with oral tablets of the same name. Epsom salts baths are also a tried and true option.

There are a variety of options with regard to moist heat on affected areas- microwaved barley products such as Bed Buddy, or even hot, wet towels applied to affected areas. There are a numerous products that provide temporary localized heat that soothe and heal.

In addition to homeopathic resources, the emerging science of the down-regulation of inflammatory processes has given us pancreatic enzymes that reduce inflammation naturally:

Some of my personal favorites include: Trigger Point Therapy, Cranio-sacral Therapy, and Acupuncture, moist heat, and Arnica used as described above.