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The Healing Crisis

Any person receiving bodywork can experience what is known in the industry as a “healing crisis”, also known as the “Herxheimer Reaction”. While not a pleasant experience, a healing crisis signifies that a cleansing and purifying process is underway.

A healing crisis is a reaction and temporary worsening of symptoms that occurs when the body is going through the process of healing itself through the elimination of toxins. Each body system works together to eliminate waste and promote regeneration as old tissues are replaced with new. Once the healing crisis starts, reactions may be mild or severe and a be up and down until there is a return to good health.

A disease occurs when the body is out of balance physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and so the healing crisis usually re-opens past conditions and personal issues which have often been forgotten. Symptoms of the healing crisis may be identical to how the disease originally manifested, and arises in whatever order the body is capable of handling at that time.

The olfactory system includes the physical organs and cells relating to the sense of smell. When we inhale through the nose, airborne molecules interact with the olfactory organs and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites, one of which is the limbic system, known as the "emotional brain."

The limbic system is directly connected to the part of the brain which controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. This explain why smells often trigger emotions. 

It is not unusual during or after an aromatherapy massage for a patient to experience a bout of crying without understanding why. It is not necessary to know or recall a memory, but to trust that weeping and other reactions are part of the healing process, as explained further below.

Sometimes one crisis is not enough for a return to full health as chronic disease needs time to let go of the blocked energy. Much like peeling the layers off an onion, it is necessary to revisit each step the body has been through that brought it to it’s current state of dis-ease, in a process known as reversal.  

The body has it’s own memory and when healing occurs from deep within the physical, mental and emotional levels, these memories are brought to light, and people re-experience illness and trauma in a phenomenon known as re-tracing. (Herings Law of Cure, Constantine Herin MD 1800-1880) The difference this time is that the symptoms come and go quickly and there is an underlying sense of achieving renewed health.

While cleansing can be physical, emotional or spiritual, a true healing crisis usually involves all three. Due to the body’s fascinating ability to store memories and emotions in the tissues (cellular memory), it is understandable that manipulating the tissues through massage can bring about recall and a release of those memories. Most practitioners refer to the surfacing of memories or emotions without physical symptoms as an emotional release. An emotional release is a typical component of most healing crises.

Emotional Releases

Most people experience some emotional issues or trauma during their life. Whenever an emotional trauma or situation happens it is stored in the nervous system. Though we may think we are over it, or not even remember it, the mark or impression could still be there and negatively affect our health and psychology. During any form of bodywork it is possible to release these stored issues or traumas. An emotional release may give rise to feelings of anger, grief or another emotion. This release is indicative of a healthy body transformation, where the body clears itself of the negativity previously stored within.

Learning to suppress our feelings typically causes them to go into our physical bodies. The tensing of neck muscles will prompt frowning, holding one’s breath can replace crying, and jaw clenching may stifle yelling. When these patterns are repeated, emotional suppression becomes a habit, the unconscious mind takes over, and the body becomes a storehouse for unexpressed, unconscious feelings.

Suppressed emotions and traumas are a key factor in the development of muscle tension, pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, immune weakness, allergies, anxiety, depression, addiction, and many other mental, emotional and physical diseases. Most practitioners agree that real healing begins when this suppression is released, freeing the body to heal at the deepest level.

Symptoms of a healing crisis

While each individual is unique, here are some common symptoms typical of a healing crisis, often experienced after receiving bodywork:

  •  Dizziness and light-headedness

  •  Fatigue & Sleepiness

  •  Nausea and vomiting

  •  Low-grade fever

  •  Joint and muscle aches

  •  An odd or metallic taste in the mouth

  •  Muscle cramps

  •  Skin eruptions

  •  Intense emotional states

  •  Skin eruptions

  •  Headache

  •  Constipation

  •  Diarrhea

  •  Mucus & Catarrh 

  •  Increased sweating, urination or defecation

An initial healing crisis usually lasts around three days but if the energy of the patient is low, it may last a week or more. This is a time for rest and self-care.

Be kind to yourself --- mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

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