Sep 24th

Repetitive Stress Injuries – Causes & Treatments

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If you’ve been sitting at your computer for more than 30 minutes, take a break before reading on…
Move your body. Shake it out. Roll your shoulders. Jiggle your legs. Breathe.
Now sit back down…

Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI’s) are the result of chronic tension that you’ve built up over years of life and making the same tiny movements in the same habitual way over and over and over.

In order to understand RSI’s, we need to understand chronic tension. Tension is constant contraction in a muscle, involuntary and impossible to “just relax”. We tense up because something we’re experiencing is too much to handle – physical pain, emotional pain, anxiety, social pressures and constraints… you get the point. When an experience is traumatic enough or constant enough (think serious injuries, family dynamics, childhood trauma) the tension response moves from a momentary coping mechanism to an unconscious survival habit.

RSI’s happen only in the areas of chronic tension because the tighter a muscle, the less flexibility it has.

Let’s try an experiment (unless you have wrist pain)…
Choose one hand and rotate it in small circles moving from the wrist; notice how that feels and how it looks. Now make a fist and repeat the rotation maintaining the fist, again notice how it feels and how it looks. Now shake it all off.

Imagine holding that fist for many years, followed by getting your dream job that requires you to circle your wrist for 40-80 hours a week, indefinitely. That sounds terrible, right?!  Sitting at the computer for long hours thinking, typing, mousing, with arms extending from compromised shoulders and neck are the equivalent of this scenario. RSI’s are the result of chronically tight muscle making the same tiny movements repetitively, slowly tearing through muscle fiber, causing inflammation and compressing nerves.

So what can you do about this?
Simply breathe deeply and recite “I am relaxed. I am light.” 10x each morning and evening.

…Just kidding! Magical thinking won’t do it, but laughter is great medicine!
Because chronic tension is an unconscious habit the only way is to unravel it from the root. There are many forms of bodywork and movement therapies designed to do just this. Here is a list of a few…

Rosen Method Bodywork
a somatic therapy that treats body and mind simultaneously, addressing muscle tension as the physical manifestation of long held attitudes, beliefs, and emotional blockages.

Ortho-Bionomy: a gentle, non-invasive, system of healing that reminds the body of its natural ability to restore balance. Its principles are based on a simple and profound philosophy: allow the body to correct itself.

Mind-Body Centeringan experiential study based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical  and developmental principles, utilizing movement, touch, voice and mind.

Vipassana Meditation: Also called insight meditation, is a Buddhist form of meditation that involves mindful body scanning. This practice leads to a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens.

Feldenkrais Method: an educational movement practice based on principles of physics, biomechanics, and an empirical understanding of learning and human development. By expanding your perception and increasing awareness, you will become more aware of your habits and tensions and develop new ways of moving.

Alexander Technique
an educational process for developing the ability to avoid unnecessary muscular tension by retraining physical movement reactions.

Somatic (Body) Psychotherapy: An integration of somatic therapies (like the ones listed above) and psychotherapies. This is a holistic model works with the whole person; body and mind, thinking, feeling, and sensing.

For short term, immediate relief of pain there are even more options. The most obvious is massage, followed by acupuncture, chiropractic, and foam rollers.

Have you had success with things not listed here? Please share!

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Sep 4th

Reflections from the Deep [tissue]

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The words “you can go harder” ring like sirens in a massage therapist’s ears, almost all of the time. Harder is not better, and often times it is not actually deeper; it is simply more painful.

I used to wonder why people enjoyed this sort of pain so much, I’m clearly not that sort of masochist…
And one day it clicked. The more locked down we are, the more tense we are, the less we can feel – physically and emotionally. This is not to say that tense people are insensitive, often it’s quite the contrary. But there is an undeniable correlation between muscular tenacity and emotional bottling. Neurologically, physical pain and emotional pain share the same brain region. Studies show that pain killers such as acetaminophen are effective in decreasing hurt feelings just as they are in treating hurt bodies. But, I digress…

Deep Tissue is a massage modality, a therapy in it’s own right. Literally it is a method of addressing the layers of tissue that sit deeper within the body (closer to the bone, farther from the skin). It is sometimes painful, when there is injury, adhesion or scar tissue; it sometimes brings up strong emotional release. Trigger points and pressure points can be particularly intense, but even these will respond to a surprisingly non-painful pressure. In fact, deep tissue can at times be painless, even pleasurable. It always brings different sensations and intensities in different areas of your body.

Any tuned-in massage therapist can read your body, and the body doesn’t lie. The body either surrenders to touch, or it fights against it. It is unconscious and uncontrollable for the most part, and it tells what is most honest. If you notice your breath being held during a massage, consider if the sensation is actually too intense. We massage therapists are listening to the feedback from your body, and adjusting pressure accordingly. Your body will respond differently session to session, so it is important to feel into your own body during each session. There is no reward (other than bruises) for powering through it.

Rather than blindly determining what you believe you need (unless you’re actually trained in anatomy and physiology), find a therapist who you resonate with and communicate openly. Together you’ll find the pressure that suits each area of your body, resulting in relaxation, increased circulation, detoxification, increased range of motion, and decreased pain. At the end of your session, instead of feeling beat up, you’ll feel freed up. You’ll learn about your body, and perhaps gain a bit more insight into where you’re really at.

Your request for ‘deeper’ may very well be a request for someone to pummel down the walls you’ve built; maybe the deeper you seek is not in pressure but in presence.


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