The back, please, the back!
One of the most common requests I hear is that just the back or shoulders (upper traps) hurt and my clients request that I spend most (or all) of the time we have in those areas. It is logical to believe that bodywork should only be done on areas that are experiencing pain, however, we should not be neglecting the rest of our bodies during a session. More often than not, pain is a symptom of something else happening somewhere else within the body. Let me tell you why other areas may need to be worked on, too.
Posture affects everything!
I will use my body as an example. If you have seen my treatment room, you know there is a stool at the head of the table where I often sit to work on my clients (much like anyone else who sits at a desk). This sitting requires that I use my hands to work in front of me, rounding my back, and shortening every muscle in the front of my neck, chest, ribs, arms, spine, hip, and abdominal (belly) muscles. The front of my body is getting tighter while I am l e n g t h e n i n g, or making longer/over-stretching, the muscles between the shoulder blades, back muscles, joints, and spine. Our first instinct when we feel pain from being a forward-facing human who sits all day is to rub and stretch an already over-stretched area! While a massage may offer short-term relief, there are ways to obtain more long-term relief.
Let’s be real, there is no true forever fix. Newton’s third law of physics states that every action (shortening the front of the body) has an equal and opposite reaction (lengthening the back of the body). So let’s reverse that; I can help! When an area of the body is too long (back/neck), we should try to passively (without effort) make it shorter. When it is too short (front), that is the area we need to massage and work on (in conjunction with the nervous system), to “loosen” up. Now, this does not mean that I would completely avoid the back and traps, “shoulders,” during a massage. What it means is that having permission to also work on the front of the neck, upper chest, and abdomen (as long as you are comfortable) can be very valuable during a massage session. More on why (almost) everyone needs an abdominal massage later.
Now, let’s chat about our legs and arms! Our feet carry the entire weight of our body everywhere we go. The feet are attached to the legs, which are attached to the hips, which are attached to the back and neck. Consider the amount of impact our feet take that radiates up through the entire body with every step, and that’s if we are wearing proper, supportive shoes! When we wear heels or shoes that do not feel or fit right, it makes everything worse; even our necks! Bad shoes and foot tension can cause headaches, backaches, and many other pains.
Our arms? Well, they carry everything else; purses, backpacks, kids, groceries. Our arms allow us to type, text, drive, write, hug, and then they often get squished while we sleep! Think about how we shorten the front in the example above. Our human posture(s) allows for the hand and arm muscles/tissues to be shortened in these seated/working positions, too. It is all connected; our entire body is one long chain.
Need some quick relief before your next massage? Find a pillow and place it on your bed, couch, or the ground (at home or in your office) and place it lengthwise near a wall so that part of the pillow hits the low back and the other part hits the upper back/neck/head. If you need more head and neck support, grab two pillows. If you can, place your feet on a chair at a 90-degree angle or up a wall. This elevation of the feet can help move fluid up from the feet and reduce swelling while allowing the back to reset. If that is uncomfortable, you can move away from your wall or chair and put the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall to the sides or place your feet wider than hip-width and let your knees come together toward the midline. Allow your arms to be palms-up as far away from the body as it feels comfortable to open the chest. Breathe and rest from at least one minute (longer if you can). Enjoy :o)
Up next: why a facial should be in your self-care routine.
Questions or comments? I look forward to hearing from you!