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MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2014  07:31:23 PM

Massage Therapy; Massage helps Soldiers down path to healing

Email   Print   Share By Joy Pariante, Sentinel Staff
April 1, 2010 | Living
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Jenifer Immer, Sentinel Graphic Designer
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Spc. Christopher L. Turner, Co. D, 1st Bn., WTB, receives a massage from C.J. Shipp during a wounded warrior massage therapy clinic March 9. Massage clinics are sponsored through the organization CAUSE to give wounded Soldiers another way to manage pain and assist in the healing process. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Staff
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Massage therapists from the community around Fort Hood, including Austin, come to post twice a month to give massages to Soldiers, family members and cadre of the Warrior Transition Battalion. The therapeutic massages help to reduce the stress and anxiety that stem from injury, heavy work loads and family issues.
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Appropriate touch therapy, as in massage or reiki technique, offer an alternative way for Soldiers to heal. The CAUSE program and the Bob Woodruff Foundation fund massage programs for wounded Soldiers on Army installations.
Wounded warriors on Fort Hood are provided with high-level medical care including diagnostics, surgeries, therapy and behavioral health services. The wounds these Soldiers are working through are sometimes mental, sometimes physical and often both. Medical providers at Fort Hood continuously strive to find ways to help Soldiers heal and move forward with their lives.

Recently, the Army began looking at alternative therapies, such as massage, to help wounded warriors control their pain, stress and anxiety. The skin is the largest sensory organ in the human body and specialized touch through massage and reiki can help mitigate pain and give wounded warriors, their families and the cadre who care for them an outlet for relaxation.

David Riggs, the coordinator for the CAUSE massage programs at Brooke Army Medical Center and Fort Hood, uses his massage therapy skills to give Soldiers a time and place to relax.

“One of the biggest things you can do for someone is appropriate touch,” Riggs said. “The human body was made to be touched.”

Comfort for America’s Uniformed Services, or CAUSE, has recently started massage therapy clinics on post for Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Brigade. Through a grant provided by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, massage therapists from Killeen, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Austin come to the WTB twice a month and help troops work through their pain and stress. The massage and reiki sessions last 30 minutes and therapists visit twice a month for four hours. Soldiers can make appointments for themselves and family members through their chain of command.

“We provide them a relaxing moment that makes them actually slow down a bit,” said C.J. Shipp, a massage therapist from EcoBlu Spa and Salon, who provides services for this program. She said being part of the massage therapy clinics shows her the lives of the Soldiers and family members that she wouldn’t normally see and a chance to give back to those who give her so much.

Riggs says, participation in the massage clinics benefits him as well. After 11 years in the Army, Riggs has a special tie with the troops he’s massaging.

“It’s like working on my brothers,” he said. “I have a deep military connection with these Soldiers.”

The program has been in place at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the past three years, and started as a volunteer service. When the Bob Woodruff Foundation, started by the ABC journalist who suffered a traumatic brain injury while embedded in Iraq, began funding the program it expanded to Brooke Army Medical Center in 2008 and to Fort Hood in January. They’re hoping to expand the program to installations with large numbers of wounded warriors.

“There are so many organizations and people and companies who shower places like Walter Reed and BAMC with programs, but so many other places that are treating wounded warriors aren’t getting support like that,” Barbara Lau, CAUSE director, said. “These folks need these programs as much as anyone at Walter Reed or BAMC.”

CAUSE provides services to Soldiers and their families including their Digital Entertainment Library, gift packages for injured Soldiers and organizing trips to sporting events. CAUSE was started by four West Point graduates who served in Vietnam. The grass roots program started with veterans and their spouses bringing personal care items and clothing to Soldiers at Walter Reed following their medical evacuations from theater.

Their massage program is one of the most popular CAUSE features, Lau said. Many Soldiers don’t have access to massage as part of their healing process and the clinics serve to provide that service free of charge to the troops while the Army works on incorporating it into its medical facilities.

“I give the military so much credit for looking at these alternative treatments as a way to treat PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which is the signature injury of this way,” Lau said. “These treatments were once considered very esoteric, but we have become so sophisticated in looking to other cultures for treatments.”

Spc. Christopher L. Turner is familiar with the benefit of alternative therapies. Medical approaches other than clinical were popular in Turner’s family throughout his childhood. Although his recent massage was his first in a long time, he’s well aware of the benefits.

“Half the problems with Soldiers are tension and stress,” said Turner, who is recovering from lung and facial burns following a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device blast in Iraq.

“I relaxed more in that 30 minutes of time than I have in months,” he added.

Turner encouraged his fellow Soldiers to receive massage therapy as a way to relax and heal. He said that instead of relying on medications to feel better, Soldiers can take the more holistic route which is better for their bodies in the long run.

“There are lots of tools available (for healing) and you have to keep searching until you find the right one,” said Staff Sgt. Tony Hays, Company B, 1st Battalion, WTB. Hays, who served in Grenada, Panama and Desert Shield/Desert Storm, said such therapies weren’t available to Soldiers in the past. But he’s happy the Army is offering alternative medicines and enhanced behavioral health programs to troops.

“The Soldier mentality is that you don’t want to quit, you want to move on. But sometimes you have to have this weight lifted off,” Hays said. “It makes you a better Soldier, a better person. Embracing these programs shouldn’t be a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.”

Cadre from the WTB are also taking advantage of the free therapy. While they aren’t recovering from battlefield injuries, the members of the brigade staff deal with injured Soldiers and distraught families every day. The stress can take its toll.

“I deal with a lot of challenges throughout the day,” Maj. Paulette Smith-Kimble, a senior nurse case manager with the WTB, said. “My stress level leaving here is far less than when I got here. Any type of therapy an organization can provide for their staff only increases output towards the mission.”
 
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