Helping you find the off switch

If relaxing was easy no-one would suffer from tension, but the reality is that when we get stressed, our body is tight and our brain won’t stop. Being able to relax can seem a million miles away.

Laura (not her real name) was suffering stress at work that she couldn’t let go of. Thouhts were going round in her head at night – trying to find solutions and blaming herself for not being able to sort it out. Her shoulders were stiff and sore, she was starting to get headaches and she had a week off work due to stress.

Making the decision to come for massage was a turning point – recognising that she wasn’t coping well and opening to receiving help.

Laura’s first session established a direction. Her therapist explored her needs and suggested approaches.

They agreed her massage should focus on two areas. Firstly, working with the tightness in her body. Not trying to force out the knots, but to help connect her physical tightness with the part of her brain that’s triggering it – sending the signal back that it’s okay to let go. Secondly, the treatment helped Laura support her relationship with herself by finding ways for her to bring her attention to her body.

She left feeling calmer with a little more space in her body and her mind. She also had a sense of what it feels like to relax to take away with her and an experience of connecting with her self that will help her find her own direction through a difficult situation, helping her direct her energy away form criticising herself and into caring for herself.

What simple change can improve your posture?

Our posture – the way we hold and move our bodies – depends on our activity, our habits and our emotional state – and it can change.

Posture is a recurring topic for us. People wonder if poor posture is exacerbating a problem. Sometimes we notice a pattern suggesting posture is a factor. Poor posture can cause problems, but it’s also a symptom. If we want to improve posture it helps to remember that is the result of circumstances – physical and psychological.

Unhelpful inherited values

We’ve all tried “standing up straight” only to flop back down a few moments later and give up. It’s easy to conclude there is no point trying.

There are so many things wrong with “stand (or sit) up straight” it’s hard to know where to begin. Firstly it assumes there is good and bad posture – not very helpful. Secondly the negative tone has echoes of a parent or militaristic school teacher. It makes us think that it’s our fault we have “bad” posture.

When we do try to adjust our posture we’re probably not sure what we’re doing. We have no route to progress and nothing to guide us. We didn’t decide how we would like our posture to be and how to achieve it. It’s also really hard work. We’re trying to force ourself into a shape we’ve labelled “good” posture and soon stop because it’s so much effort. When we do stop our body reverts back to the position it was in before. We call it failure and don’t want to try again.

So, let’s take a more sensible look at what forms our posture and how we can work with it.

Our posture isn’t set. Our bones are dynamic – moved by our muscles. Our spine is a series of joints, each with a range of movement. Habit and how we feel are also very important. We are generally not aware of our posture. Our unconscious mind takes care of it. Luckily for us though we can take control and with practice change the pattern.

You can change the position of your body more easily than you think. The trick is to find a position which is comfortable and looks good then you will want to adopt it. It’s then a matter of forming new habits.

It helps to look at the whole body. The angle of our pelvis, for example, is going to affect our lower spine, which in turn affects the upper body shape.

A positive attitude is important. We are moving to something better for ourselves that we have chosen.

Because it’s hard to do this on your own I have designed a practical workshop to look at your posture, see how you feel about it and how you would like it to be, make some suggestions and together come up with one or two easy things you can repeat frequently throughout the day – positive steps towards the posture you want.

Posture workshop

My posture workshop is to help you
– know where you are starting and what you are trying to achieve
– feel confident about what you are doing
– find something sustainable you can integrate into your everyday life
– find something realistically achievable that will give you results
– feel supported in the process and have something to guide you

What happens in the workshop?

We look together at your posture and talk about how you see yourself and how you would like to be. Using photography helps.

Then I help you find a new posture – something you feel good about. Again we can use photos and see how you feel when you see yourself.

You’ll get chance to try your new posture – take it for a test drive. We want to make sure it’s going to work from day 1.

Once you have found and practised your new posture, you can leave with a sense of purpose, direction, realistic expectation and the photos to remind you, inspire you and guide you. I can also check up to see how you are getting on.

Prices and booking

Working with pain

How massage therapy can help when you are in pain.

Pain is relevant to massage therapy in a number of ways. In this article I look at the treatment of painful conditions such as lower back pain.

I have seen how pain can impact people’s lives. Pain effects everyday activities and can be upsetting and worrying. Pain makes it hard to concentrate on other things. People suffering from pain adapt their movements and activities in an attempt to avoid it. Clients say things like, “The only position I’m comfortable in is x, y or z and that’s getting worse.” The body also adapts unconsciously by changing posture and calling on other parts of the body to take the strain.

Of course pain can be a symptom of many things and if you’re not sure, do see your doctor. If however your pain is muscular then you might find that your GP doesn’t offer much help to address its cause.
Massage works to relieve pain in a number of ways. 1. by finding and relaxing muscle tension that is causing or contributing to your pain. 2. by relaxing the whole person 3. by changing the way you perceive pain 4. by helping you understand the mechanics of the problem you are experiencing. 5. by helping you make beneficial changes in your life 6. by changing the way your body feels and the way you feel about your body.

As I therapist I need to be sensitive. I don’t want to trigger the pain – which would exacerbate the problem. I have a range of techniques so I can adapt around the sensitivity yet still be effective.

A client I saw recently had stiffness in his neck which caused pain up into his jaw and temple and behind his eye. During his massage sessions I’m working to help release his neck which is the immediate cause I’m also working around his hips and back to help his posture – and we’re discussing the influences which affect his everyday posture. It’s also a supportive environment where he can talk about his health and take time to relax.

As I work into painful areas I’m using my sense of touch and my clients reaction to judge what’s needed. As well as providing physical relaxation, I want my client to experience that part of their body in a new way; a way that can respond positively without pain. I think this is an important part of my treatment as it breaks the cycle of pain and tension.

After treatments clients report feeling looser, have increased movement and simply feeling better. Sometimes there are great steps forward in a single session, but I can’t promise.
Once a particular issue is resolved, people often opt for a regular treatment to keep them supple and head off any future problems.

If there’s anything you would like to discuss, please call me.


Call 07941 094318

Email: enquires@naturaltouchbath.co.uk

Focus on… shoulder pain

The shoulder is complex. There is the movement of the shoulder itself plus the movement of the arm. It’s easy to confuse the two.

Shoulder movement
When you let your arm hang loosely you should be able to move your shoulder upwards, downwards, forwards and backwards. You should also be able to make forward and backward circles with your shoulders. When you let your shoulders drop you shouldn’t feel pain or tension in your neck or the top of the shoulder.

Shoulder movement is controlled by six muscles which attach to the shoulder blade and/or collar bone. If there is pain or restricted movement these are the places to check.

Arm movement
Holding the shoulder in a neutral position you should be able to move the arm in all directions and make full circles.

Muscular pain sometimes feels like it is in the shoulder joint when the cause lies in one of the muscles that connect across the joint. Particularly the group known as the rotator cuff that also hold the upper arm into the shoulder socket.

Other muscles such as pectoralis major (pecs) and latissimus dorsi (lats) are important in arm movement.

Treatment
Identifying the cause of the pain is important. In my work I’m dealing with problems which relate to muscles and tendons, which is probably the majority of shoulder problems.

I’m able to tell the state of muscles by touch and help my clients understand what they need. It could be massage, rest, gentle exercise, stretching or a combination of these.

See also Deep tissue massage

Massaging to the extremes

Two treatments this week seemed to reflect opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first was a woman who is having regular treatments to help ease mental and emotional stress that builds up in her body. On her first visit she was worried that the massage would make her feel painful afterwards. I was careful to make sure it didn’t. We’ve since built a deeper relationship. She is currently experiencing a number of symptoms related to hormonal changes. The massage is a bit more physical now, but with sensitivity.

In contrast I treated a man who comes periodically with accumulated muscle tension – knots and clunks in his shoulders and neck. I found myself using the most directed pressure I’ve ever used in a treatment. I had the majority of my body weight directed through my elbow into his shoulder. This type of treatment also requires sensitivity. It’s so important the person’s comfortable with the pressure and obviously needs to be applied in exactly the right spots. For him, it works and he leaves relaxed, looser and happier back to his family.

Read what people say about my massage.

Client Profile – Musician and teacher, John Diver

John came to Natural Touch when his wife bought him some vouchers. “As a guitarist I divide my working time between playing, practising and teaching which means I’m often in the same position for some length of time. Even though I’m fairly active I noticed a few years ago that my shoulder and neck began to ache and became stiff.

“I use yoga to help stretch as regularly as I can but have found that a deep massage can really help loosen up tight spots and knots that build up over time. After a massage I feel a bit looser which gives me motivation to stretch and also importantly relax. Nigel has helped me to think about my posture a lot more which helps me to manage and balance my lifestyle.”

Hear more from John at www.jd-guitar.com, www.guitar-lessons-bath.co.uk and www.guitar-skills.com or listen on YouTube.

Recovery and injury from the Bath Half

It’s normal to feel achy and stiff after a hard run – especially if you’ve pushed yourself to the limit.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually comes on the following day and will be familiar to anyone who has ever pushed themselves physically. A day or two later you should feel fine. In the mean time, look after yourself with good food and plenty of fluids.

If beyond that you’re noticing your muscles feeling tight then a massage can help. At this stage massage can help lengthen shortened muscles and break up any of the congestion which makes muscles feel hard.

If you’re suffering other problems such as back, hip, neck or shoulder pain, massage can help too.

Muscle Injury (Sprain)

If you have pain, redness, swelling and heat which came on immediately these are the symptoms of a muscle injury. You should immediately:

Rest the affected part
Apply ice to cool the area (not directly on the skin)
Bandage the area to help limit swelling and
Elevate the limb

Seek medical advice if you are unsure.

When these symptoms have gone you can gently return to stretching and exercise, being careful not to cause more damage to the weakened area.

As scar tissue forms, use massage to help it’s fibres line up with the muscle fibres. Scar tissue is not as strong or flexible as the original muscle.