The Body Holds Our Trauma

Recently a comment was posted on my website from a woman who suffered child sexual abuse in her childhood and as an adult suffers from tension and pain in her neck and shoulders. I imagine this is pretty well universal for those of us who were victims of child hood trauma.

How many cases of chronic pain, gynecological problems, sick stomachs, fibromyalgia, result from traumatic memories stored in the body? It’s not hard to realize that tensing every muscle in your body over the years and carrying a huge amount of fear in your gut will inevitably end in physical illness – or at least in discomfort.

Recently I have been having massage from a very skilled therapist. She knows how to work with the trauma trapped in my body. The feeling of trauma is that of itchy, scratchy sensations under the skin. This is actually the trauma trapped in the myofascial tissues as explained by Dr. Robert Scaer in his book and website, both entitled The Body Bears The Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease.

That’s why self care and knowledge of trauma is essential for those of us who have been traumatized. Cardiovascular exercise is incredibly important if you suffer from any kind of trauma. It’s our animal body’s way of releasing stress.

Dr. Scaer is a neurologist who was director of a centre treating treating chronic pain. His specialty was whiplash. He discovered that almost any treatment worked – for a while. And then the pain returned. No amount of narcotics relieved the pain. What was going on? Dr. Scaer realized these patients had all experienced child abuse. Their pain was in the area of the body that corresponded to where they’d been hit or held during the trauma.

Here is the reference for Dr. Scaer’s important book:

Scaer, R., The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease: The Haworth Medical Press, Binghampton, N.Y., 2001.


  1. I recently worked with Bob Scaer M.D. at a Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) process training. Not only did he present brilliant and insightful information on trauma’s impact on the brain and body, but he participated in the experiential portion of the weekend—doing TRE!

    TRE addresses the physical residue of trauma and helps relieve many chronic tension problems. And, it is a Self-Help, Self-Administer, Self-Regulated system. Once you learn it, you don’t need a therapist to feel better. You can do it yourself, at your own pace, whenever you need it.

    There is anecdotal evidence that TRE reduces improves cardiovascular functioning, aids in relieving other serious health issues. It makes sense. When you reduce long held stress, blood pressure lowers, inflammation diminishes, and a whole other host of benefits accrue. Check out the website: Or ask Dr. Scaer himself.

    • I’m so glad you told me about TRE. I have actually signed up for the introductory 3-hour workshop coming to Toronto at the end of April.

      I’m surprised I’d never heard of it before. A Focusing colleague Judy Archer is leading the workshop. After I experience it I’ll write a blog post about it for this website.

      Thanks again, Mary

  2. shen says:

    I’ve worked with a massage therapist who works with trauma, as well. It’s amazing what has come out in those sessions… and I haven’t done it in some time. I think maybe I’m due. :-) Thanks for the reminder.

  3. […] *See my blog post on this website dated March 29, 2013: “The Body Holds Our Trauma.” […]

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