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What are Trauma-Releasing Exercises?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Trauma-releasing exercises refer to a series of stretches and movements which are designed to help release built-up tension and mental or physical pain resulting from a past traumatic event. They are made to help those who have suffered both physical and emotional traumas by releasing tension and causing what are known as neurogenic tremors. These tremors are said to occur naturally in many animals and in human beings during certain physically traumatic experiences, such as childbirth, and are the body’s natural way of returning itself to equilibrium.

In essence, trauma is any event that throws the body off balance or that is hard to come to terms with either physically or emotionally. Physical trauma is easy to recognize because it generally causes pain, tightness, tension, or other symptoms that are quickly noticed, although the underlying reason for these sensations may take more time to figure out. Emotional trauma can be harder to deal with because the mind can often deny, bury, or ignore mental or emotional pain until other symptoms begin to materialize. For instance, someone who is abused growing up may deny his feelings of hurt, abandonment, or anger until he no longer realizes they are there. The trauma does not go away, however, and can emerge instead as physical symptoms or misplaced emotional ones.

The purpose of trauma-releasing exercises is to release the tension and inner pain caused by these past experiences. The exercises are generally comprised of several easy to perform movements and stretches which are effectively able to stimulate various muscle groups. They also cause a tremor response, which is the natural way in which the body releases tension and returns itself to a normally functioning state of being. Many compare them to yoga due to their calming effect on the mind and body. The tremors are generally thought to be caused by the tension leaving cells in the muscles and other tissues.

Trauma-releasing exercises can be combined with conventional counseling or self-help as an additional therapy. They are often effective even without the use of a counselor, however, and may even provide relief for those suffering from a condition which is not yet determined. For instance, someone with chronic worry or anxiety may feel calmer and more relaxed after performing the exercises even if the source of his anxiety is not uncovered.

As with any medical treatment, those with certain physical conditions should seek the advice of a health care provider before participating in trauma-releasing exercises. The movements are generally considered simple and easy to perform by almost anyone, but people with heart problems or issues pertaining to the muscles or skeletal system should be extra cautious. Patients can perform trauma-releasing exercises by following along with a video, reading a book, or contacting a therapist who is trained in guiding clients through the movements. Many find that they are most effective when combined with other methods like walking, yoga, and acupuncture.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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