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The Healing Power of Touch

For Emotional Healing: Body Psychotherapy continued...

Body psychotherapy can even help with something as basic as poor posture. For example, if a woman is depressed from the breakup of her marriage, she may not have enough energy to even sit up straight — and that in itself can put stress on the body and contribute to her depression, says Nicole Dockter, a San Diego bioenergetic therapist. Through bioenergetics, she can unblock tension and learn a new way of sitting, walking, and carrying herself to feel more centered and secure, which may also help her begin to heal emotionally.

To find a body psychotherapy practitioner, log on to the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy Website at usabp.org. Ask for an initial meeting to talk through the practitioner’s approach and make sure you’re comfortable and feel a rapport. A session can range from $85 to $250; insurance may cover part of the cost if your practitioner is licensed. If you’re already seeing a psychologist or other talk therapist, be sure to discuss your plans to add body psychotherapy to your care.

For Easing Your Pain: Physical Therapy

What it is: After an injury or illness, physical therapy (PT) can help you learn better ways to stand, walk, and move. Sessions may include loosening specific joints, working the soft tissue around joints, and offering guidance about proper movement patterns.

Why try it? Physical therapy treats and prevents a wide variety of conditions, including lower-back pain and problems resulting from accidents, surgery, or sports in-juries. One recent study found that those who did PT following breast cancer surgery had significantly less pain, improved shoulder function, and better quality of life than those who only received a leaflet with exercises to do at home. You could also see a physical therapist if you haven’t exercised regularly — or not for a long time — and are considering a fitness program and want to ward off injuries.

A physical therapist plays detective to figure out what about your body or movement pattern is causing the pain. Let’s say your shoulder aches after a car accident. Your physical therapist will consider what happened during the accident, but will also look at your joint mobility, posture, body strength, flexibility, and soft tissue tone and texture to develop the right plan for you. Six months after her daughter was born, 37-year-old marathon-runner Sarah Lee of Arlington, VA, started to feel pain in her hip, which then migrated to her shoulder. “I thought, I’m too young for this to become a chronic problem — this has got to stop,” recalls Lee. So Lee went to see Jennifer Gamboa, a doctor of physical therapy in Arlington. Gamboa determined that Lee’s ribs expanded when she was pregnant and hadn’t returned to their normal position after the baby was born, which contributed to pain elsewhere. So Gamboa gradually worked the ribs back into place by stretching the tissue between them as well as the area where they connect to the spine; this technique helped improve the ribs’ mobility so that they could fully descend during exhalation.

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