A healing touch: veteran provides massage therapy to PTSD patients

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Tucked away at the Shellbank Fitness Center is a soothing room filled with potted plants, soft lighting and a trickling waterfall, designed to create a relaxing atmosphere.


In this room, a new service is offered to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, personnel who may need help relieving stressors caused by traumatic experiences, whether combat or non-combat related.


Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eduardo Duran Jr. decided to provide a different kind of service than the one he spent 17 years performing on active duty.


Now as a licensed massage therapist, he helps services members work through their stressors by connecting their minds back to their bodies through massage.


“Massage therapy can allow a person who has been in a traumatic experience, victimized or in constant exposure to high stress in any shape or form, to regain control of their environment and regain control of their feeling as they're being touched by somebody else,” Duran said. “That person is given the opportunity to control the pace and location of the touch, and by gaining that control it's one more tool in their mind, body and spirit to be able to trust in themselves and possibly others. Massage can be part of a tool to help a person reach a level of mental health that is improving the quality of their life.”


In 2018, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs announced the release of the Whole Health System, a personalized health plan that considers mental, spiritual, physical, emotional and environmental needs of veterans. The program provides alternative therapies such as art therapy, battlefield acupuncture, tai chi, yoga and massage therapy to give veterans strategies and tools to cope.


“The VA’s Whole Health approach helps veterans live their lives to the fullest,” said VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie. “By developing a personal health plan that integrates many areas of their lives, Veterans can truly take charge of their well-being and improve their health all around.”


For individuals suffering from a traumatic experience, Duran harped on the importance of receiving massage therapy in conjunction with psychotherapy, behavioral or cognitive therapy.


According to Duran, massage therapy can be a double-edged sword for post-traumatic stress victims if those individuals are not seeking outside help for their significant emotional or physical trauma.


“It's so important that if there is massage therapy introduced to someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, brought forth by combat or sexual assault or just a random act of violence, it needs to be at the proper time in order to establish a sense of trust,” said Duran. “The person who's receiving the massage needs to feel safe and in control.”


Duran recommends anyone who is suffering from PTSD take their time when adding massage therapy to their treatment plan.


As someone who suffers from PTSD, Duran discovered the positive benefits of massage therapy.


After Duran returned from a tour in Iraq, he had difficulty sleeping, relaxing and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. A friend recommended massage therapy to help him focus and engage in positive thinking.


Upon multiple attempts to have a positive massage experience, Duran finally found a therapist he felt comfortable with and trusted, and he continues to meet with her three years later. This experience also encouraged him to become a massage therapist.


“I kept looking for different ways to feel better,” Duran said. “I tried Mixed Martial Arts. I tried acupuncture. I've tried chiropractors. But what kept me searching was that every time I tried something I was subconsciously taking bits and pieces of control back into my life. Out of all the chaos that my brain was going through, all the noise in my head, I had moments where I could actually stop it and have silence, even for just a moment.”


Now Duran wants to help service members who may be struggling with the same things by introducing them to the healing touch of massage therapy.


Whether clients are looking for someone to work on the same muscle for two hours or a full deep tissue massage in silence for 30 minutes, Duran wants his clients to know they are in complete control of their healing process.


“A good massage therapist understands that they are not in control,” Duran said. “I should not be giving you my opinion on what you should need. I can tell you what I feel and you tell me what you think. The biggest thing is trying to provide a safe environment and understanding it’s not the same for everybody.”


For Duran, he’s just happy to be able to give back to the service members he felt helped him through the worst of times.


Although Duran’s services come with a fee, he noted he would reconsider charging a service member who has been diagnosed with PTSD and has talked with their mental health provider about adding massage therapy to their treatment.


He noted he’s available to provide not only massages but a listening ear. If individuals just have questions about a certain muscle or about his fight with PTSD, he’s available to answer them.


“We need to back each other up and remind each other we're just human,” Duran said. “I'm here to help you, and I am a tool right now because I'm being used to help people. All I want is to help service members feel better.”


For more information about the Mr. Duran’s massage therapy services, contact the Shellbank Fitness Center at (757) 225-8165 or Duran directly to schedule appointments at (931) 809-0529.