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Massage Today
April, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 04 >> Oils / Aromatherapy

Employing the Whole Person Approach to Massage

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

I was reminded again of the need to address aspects of a condition that might not be immediately apparent when one of my aromatherapy students called me for advice about which essential oils to use for her teenage son.

He had been in a serious, head-on car collision and had not been sent to the hospital by responding officers. They had apparently thought the behavior caused by his concussion might instead be drug or alcohol related (they weren't). When a mother's instinct led my student to take her son to the ER, doctors found there was serious trauma to the head, neck, shoulders and upper spine. They also said his concussion required 24 hour observation. Now, he was coming home and she worried that she might not be able to help him relieve his symptoms by only using lavender oil. Her immediate thought was about the pain and his difficulty sleeping.

As she spoke, I realized she was also angry and in shock, just like her son was likely to be. After all, going home to sleep instead of getting to the hospital could have led to serious repercussions to his health. I was not being called upon for massage services, but at some point this boy would certainly be in the capable hands of a massage therapist to help address the muscular-skeletal situation. And if the massage therapist wanted to get powerful results, they would want to consider this whole situation, just as I did now. Doing this meant that, along with choosing sedative and anti-inflammatory essential oils, I would include those essences that would address emotional shock, tension, and anger. In order to do this, knowledge of what is called the "subtle" properties of essential oils is necessary.

Employing the Whole Person Approach to Massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Shock, as an acute stress reaction, is a psychological condition. It happens in response to intensely traumatic events and affects the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. At first, the person may appear to be in a daze or unresponsive to the reality of the situation. That state will move toward the observable physiological symptoms, including agitation, hyperactivity, anxiety, impaired judgement, confusion, detachment, and depression. Tachycardia, sweating and pallor may also be present. While some of the more obvious signs of shock can disappear within several days, we now know that post traumatic shock syndrome (PTSD) can last a lifetime, taking the form of "panic attacks" or more severe depression, and even violent behavior, to self or others.

Addressing shock as soon as possible seems advisable. I suggested that to a pain relieving, anti-inflammatory and sleep promoting blend of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana), and Roman chamomile (Anthemus nobilis), my student should add neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara), and/or  ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) to counteract shock, and patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) to create a feeling of grounded stability in the body. To augment the grounding properties and specifically address anger, myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) could be included. If myrrh or patchouli were not available, atlas cedarwood, (Cedrus atlantica) could substitute. It brings strength and confidence during stressful times, and the Roman chamomile would work on the anger aspect. If cost is an issue, ylang ylang is a less expensive flower essence than neroli. However, neroli also brings spiritual connection and only a drop is needed to bestow the subtle effect. This blend would be used in diffusion, so it would help both mother and son. Any of the ingredients could be added later to carrier oil for massage. As time goes on, this blend should be adjusted when different emotions or physical needs appear.

Adding the subtle properties of an essential oil to the consideration of a blend is a way to treat the whole person. Doing so augments the desired outcome for all clients, not just those suffering from traumatic events. Because it can take time to learn these aspects of essential oils, I recommend several books for reference to have in the library. (The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, by Salvatore Battaglia includes subtle effects in the descriptions of oils. Another good resource for subtle properties is Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay.) Eventually, after using them for this purpose, the subtle properties will spring to mind automatically.

Author's Note: Farewell to Readers

With an article on my favorite aspect of aromatherapy – the way it is used to benefit the whole person, body, mind and spirit – I am taking my leave as a columnist Massage Today. For fourteen years, I've been privileged to write these articles. I am grateful that I have been able to provide the knowledge and experience of an independent, professional aromatherapist and convey the resources I have come to know and trust. In an age of increasing Internet publications that often fall, sometimes dangerously short of reality and safe practice, this is even more important. Over the years, I have offered the best of my own experience and information, and enjoyed a wonderful relationship with both readers and my excellent editors, past and present. But now, it is time to pass the baton on to a younger generation to receive their insights and wisdom.

Click here for previous articles by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.


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