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Trauma and Your Body Part 2/4: Surprising Ways that Trauma Manifests Itself in Our Bodies | Cultivate Chiropractic

Trauma doesn't just exist in our brains, it has a very real presence in our bodies as well. In this article, the second in a four-part series, were taking a look at how trauma shows up in our bodies.

Trauma and Your Body (Part 2/4)

Last month, we took a little bit of time to talk about the neurological impact of trauma in our lives. This month, we want to take a look at the physical symptoms that may show up if you’re living with the lasting effects of trauma. It may surprise you to learn that some of those physical ailments you’ve been living with might have more to do with your brain than your body.

As a quick reminder, the information presented here is meant to educate. It is not the substitute for a licensed therapist or medical practitioner.

Trauma isn’t just mental

As we mentioned in part one, trauma is an emotional or physical response to past events that leaves a lasting effect on your mental and physical health. Although the memory of the event might live in our brains (and really, trauma is less of a memory and more of a reaction, according to Bessel van der Kolk), it can manifest itself in various physical forms.

Stomach pain

If you’ve ever experienced nervous butterflies or a queasy stomach due to stress or anxiety, you can attest to the link between the brain and gut. When we recognize that link, it’s not hard to draw the line connecting trauma with stomach pain or issues. Upset stomach, loss of appetite, and digestive issues are among some of the most common ways that trauma can show up in our bodies. If you’re experiencing stomach pain, digestive irregularities, or unfounded swings in appetite, it might be worth your time to consider whether trauma could be the culprit.


Difficulty sleeping is another frequently reported symptom of trauma. Depending upon the type of trauma you endured, you may have learned to be hyper alert as a defense mechanism, making it hard to relax and shut down. Or perhaps you can’t shake the memory of a traumatic event, and it comes back to you in the form of nightmares. Maybe your trauma is keeping you awake, wracked with anxiety.

Our bodies need sleep to function optimally, and when our rest patterns are disrupted, everything else goes downhill. If past events are keeping you from sleeping soundly, you’ll likely begin to notice a host of other health concerns cropping up.


According to a 2023 Harvard study, adults who experienced traumatic events in their childhood are more likely to suffer from headache disorders as adults. According to the study, people who endured one or more traumatic experiences in their childhood were nearly 50% more likely to develop migraines or other headache disorders later on in life. The research is still being explored, but it’s just one more piece of evidence to support the link between mental and physical health.


It should come with little shock to know that people who have endured trauma tend to be more likely to struggle with addiction. Whether its alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or even screens, addiction typically begins as a way to numb pain or discomfort. When you’re living with the effects of trauma, you may lean on a variety of unhealthy crutches to feel better or escape reality altogether.

A little bit of almost anything is okay— we’re not insinuating that you may struggle with addiction if you enjoy the occasional glass of wine or social media binge. However, if you begin to feel like you’re dependent upon a certain substance or activity to feel okay or to escape your life, it’s probably worth considering whether your guilty pleasure is serving you. If you have concerns about addiction, help is out there. A good place to begin is with a discussion with a trusted medical provider or a licensed therapist.

Muscle tension

Muscle tension is another common marker of trauma living in the body. We briefly discussed fight or flight in part one, and how our brain’s reaction to a dangerous situation spurs our bodies into motion to either escape the danger or fight it. Because of this fight or flight reaction, our muscles often end up storing the stress and tension and have a difficult time relaxing. Chronic muscle tension can lead to pain and fatigue if not addressed.

Next month, we’ll be sharing part three in our series about trauma and your body. If you suspect that past traumatic events are holding you back or impacting your life, we want you to know that there is hope and healing for those who seek it. Chiropractic care is a fantastic holistic approach to treating the physical and emotional effects of trauma.

We believe in a whole-body approach to wellness and are dedicated to providing the best care for you and your family. Chiropractic care is just one part of that puzzle, and we have a vast array of other health resources and services to offer. Call us today at 402-372-0166 or visit us online at to learn more.


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