Upper Back Tension - Forward Head Posture

Upper Body Tension is  something that people experience this days.  They talk about feeling of stiffness in the upper body but don't think anything of it, as if it's normal....and nothing to do with being healthy. They will say "my neck is giving me gyp" or "oh, it's just old age"  not understanding that what is actually going on is the build up of tension. And  I am hearing  this from people in their twenties!!  Our working culture is accelerating this syndrome of "Forward Head Posture".

"Forward Head Posture"; a phrase that has been coined to describe what is happening to us as we spend more and more time sat in a chair with our head craned forward, looking at a computer screen.  As your head leans forward it is losing the support of the spine and so it has to flex and strain the neck and top of the shoulder muscles.  Imagine your head being held up in mid-air with nothing below to support it.  These muscles will have to work really hard to HOLD the head up..... literally!

It has been said that this is the equivalent of carrying a four stone child around your neck.  It is little wonder that we can feel "weighed down" literally.  The longer this goes on the more tired and overloaded the muscles get, and slowly the neck starts to drop forward.  Further along the road this begins to impact on the upper spine and what you see developing is what is known as curvature of the spine.   

Did you know that up to 60% of tension in the body can be held in the Trapezius Muscles at the top of the shoulders and neck.  This "Forward Head Posture" syndrome need not have to become the case, with good postural practice & awareness; and Massage Therapy of course. Massage Therapy comes into it's own when dealing with the stress put upon the upper back and posture.  If those tense muscles could speak, they would probably tell you that they are tired, sore, need a break, or are quite simply not going to be able to carry on much longer.  

Massage Therapy helps to release tension in those muscles that have become very tight, and restore elasticity to the muscle fibres.  And improve circulation of blood and oxygen to the head and brain.  It also allows more flexibility in the spine thus improving postural alignment.  Otherwise, prolonged poor posture can lead to things like fatigue, low energy, headaches, and low mood......  

Upper Body Tension and "Forward Head Posture" are  most definitely something to become aware of if you are spending long hours at the desk.  The occupational health "hazards", and postural stress of desk-based work can produce similar characteristics to Sports Injuries.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E. & The Blood Brain Barrier

We are a nation who don't like to make a fuss when it comes to pain, but this can be harmful to our health. We tend to grin and bear it.  An estimated 56% of pain sufferers reach for painkillers as a way of managing it.  Pain is one of many symptoms experienced by sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and M.E.  Previously it was thought that there was an impenetrable barrier between the blood brain barrier and cerebro-spinal fluid, but current new research has found that aspects of modern life is creating conditions  where there is an increased leakage of toxins across the Blood Brain Barrier into the Cerebro-Spinal Fluid,  CAUSING INFLAMMATION.  The interruption to lymphatic flow & drainage, as well as a general decline in the immune system,  is giving rise  to an increasing vulnerability to conditions like M.E.,  C.S.F. and precipitation of strokes, and there are implications for mental health and it's decline eg. Dementia.

I am working with a new technique called Balanced  Ligamentous Tension - BLT.  This looks at assisting lymphatic drainage from the head.  As  a massage therapist, this cutting edge new work is opening doors in the treatment of these "medically unexplainable" low energy conditions and  I am excited to be integrating BLT into my massage treatments.  I have already begun with some clients who are experiencing low energy symptoms and  will be observing the outcomes.  The findings of this new research offer  great healing possibilities to the increasing numbers of people who are being diagnosed with  CFS/ME.

The SENSATIONAL experience of Massage Therapy

The experience of massage can be SENSATIONAL and is often experienced as sensations of comfort, pain, relief, achiness, having the memory of an injury when it occured, to name but a few.

  These are all part of the healing process which massage aims to facilitate.  The client will often feed back on how the massage is feeling, as it progresses, guiding the practitioner in their work.  Working on old/chronic tension & postural issues can be painful, but if the pain can be willingly experienced more as a sensation,  then I may hear the client say that it is "a good pain". and that feels like it is releasing tension.  It is deeply rewarding to hear the client say this.  This can also be reflected by the quality of softness I can now feel in the tissues.

Thus we are able to let go of the tensions we are carrying/holding........giving rise to a new sensation of RELAXATION that may not have been felt before.  This is often felt after the massage session has finished.  And that can truly feel SENSATIONAL!!!

Accepting that pain is present, be it physical or emotional

It's not pain if you are not trying to resist it or get away from it.  It's a feeling, but not necessarily pain, and it's not something that we have to deny.  We can also create pain by our thoughts about the pain.

It's useful because we can become pain-free, by working with it.  Otherwise it can remain unresolved, lurking in the shadows.  We can acknowledge that we have been caused pain or stress in life, without any judgement.  And accept that it is present, in the same way that we experience painful emotions.

Palpation (or touch) can mediate between the body and mind to change how a client feels about me working on their body during a massage session.  One client informed me that her calf felt like it was about to cramp and on first touching it, her calf flinched.  I spoke to her so that her body "could hear" this.  My training in Bodymind Therapeutic Massage taught me that if the body/muscles could talk, then this is literally what they might say.

On returning to the calf I simply held it, and noticed that it had yielded, and the client said that now she felt completely different about me working on it.  How the body responds to being touched, and having a dialogue with or "listening" to it, is at the core of my massage therapy.  The body needs to be touched, actually craves it, and responds to being soothed.  An innate desire to rub and make better is something we intuitively did as children when we were hurt.

And as adults, when we experience an injury or trauma, gentle palpation or listening to how that part of the body feels, will let me know what it needs to recover and feel healed.  This is our Bodymind.