Your Body Remembers

Childhood Issues Affect Adult Bodies

By Marybetts Sinclair

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, September/October 2010.

When your massage therapist sees you for the first time, it is likely that he or she may take a medical history. Over time, as you become more familiar with your massage therapist, there may be issues affecting your body that are not covered by the medical history or cannot be identified until your therapist has worked with your tissues. You may even have completely forgotten about some physical or emotional trauma that occurred long ago.

Almost everyone has suffered childhood injuries they do not remember and emotional issues can sometimes drive tension deep into a person’s tissues. You may remember that injury or emotionally traumatic event only when the area is sensitively touched during a session. When this happens, a common client comment is, “I can’t believe I forgot that happened to me!”

Your therapist appreciates knowing about body issues from your past, because this awareness can help him or her fine-tune your massage session and notice subtle changes in specific areas. Sometimes a complex postural issue (such as a chronic twist in a hip) or recurring muscular pain is the result of more than one injury or traumatic event.

Here are some simple ways to explore whether you have any body issues from your childhood.

• Ask your parents about any problems during your delivery or when you were a newborn. Children can be born with subtle postural problems such as a turned-in foot or twisted neck.

• Did your parents or any health professional notice any early postural issues such as being knock-kneed or having one hip higher than the other?

• Review additional injuries you may have had as a child. For example, when your therapist asked you about a history of broken bones, sprains, or tendonitis, he or she may not have asked about that time you fell out of that tree when you were 8 years old or cut your hand on a window as a teen.

• Tell your therapist about any episodes of severe pain, since children normally contract their muscles around such pain and can develop a lifelong pattern of holding tension there.

• Finally, try to identify any episodes of severe emotional stress that could still be affecting your body. During childhood, tension stomachaches, headaches, and back pain are common ways to express stress. One adult woman had developed a pattern of severe tension stomachaches that dated back to when her parents were getting divorced and her grandmother died suddenly.

Be sure to communicate with your therapist about any issues that you discover, and together you can deepen the effectiveness of the massage you receive.