Relieving Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Probably the top complaint I hear from clients is that of chronic and intense discomfort in their upper backs, necks, and shoulders. You’re probably familiar with the nagging sensation, usually beyond reach, often between the shoulder blades. You know, that spot that occupies way too much of your attention and won’t go away no matter how you try to work it out.

The reason that pushing on the spot that hurts (with your own fingers, a friend’s elbow, or a massage tool) doesn’t resolve the pain is that the pain is often a symptom of imbalanced posture in the upper body. Treating the symptom might feel good and bring temporary relief (hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!) but until the root cause is addressed, it won’t be very effective. It’s rather like running around putting out fires rather than taking the matches away from the toddler.

In today’s society, many conditions can cause the head to drift forward of the body.

  • The near-constant rushing and stress that has become common in our culture, and the physiological tightening of muscles that results.
  • The time spent with arms forward of the body: typing, driving, sewing, drawing, holding and nursing babies, etc
  • The long hours spent looking at screens
  • The tendency to be mentally inhabiting the next moment and the next place rather than being present here and now
  • The desire to energetically protect one’s heart
  • Feeling unsafe and wishing to hide emotionally
  • Every other scenario that induces slouching or hunching

Ideally the ears should hover over the shoulders, allowing the vertebrae to support the weight of the head. When the head is chronically positioned forward of the torso, those tired and achy muscles of the upper back are working overtime to hold the head up. Muscles on the front of the neck and shoulders become shortened over time, and those on the back become overstretched.

forward-head-posture

This image comes courtesy of Erik Dalton, a world renowned bodyworker, educator, and creator of Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques. It shows the simple physics of how the weight of a 12 pound head increases to 42 pounds when it is held 3 inches forward. Those muscles are cramped and fatigued because they’re overworked and overextended! Pummeling and poking them is not the answer.

The remedy is in returning the head to a more neutral position. The work of the massage therapist is primarily in releasing the tight anterior neck, chest, and shoulder muscles. Some therapists would argue that working on the muscles of the upper back only make the problem worse! I personally believe that this is an extreme view, and that some soothing Swedish massage of the back can help by releasing trigger points and encouraging circulation. The most important step, however, is one of awareness and continuously correcting posture throughout the day.

I’ve helped clients to overcome this chronic problem that had plagued them for decades. Through a combination of managing posture and stress, targeted stretching on a daily basis, and receiving a maintenance massage once or twice each month, they’re able to experience freedom from near-debilitating pain. Once they stopped treating the symptom and began working with the cause, the results came quickly.

If you’re frustrated that your valiant efforts are not producing desired effects, consider that you might not be treating the source of the problem. Put down the fire extinguisher and gently but firmly remove the matches from the hands of the pyromaniac toddler.

Holiday Special

We have officially entered holiday season. Here in Philadelphia, the weather has turned quite cold and people are bundling up. ‘Tis the season for stress and busy-ness, colds and the flu. More than ever it’s important to make time to rest and restore one’s balance to promote good health and mental well-being.

snow woman winter snowflakes
Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

Getting sucked into a whirlwind of constant activity is exhausting. I encourage people to literally block out time on their calendars for self-care. Then when you’re invited to do something, you can consult your agenda and truthfully say, “I have a previous commitment at that time.” Many of us, myself included, find saying “no” difficult, but this little trick works wonders.

My mission is to support and cheer others on as they uncover the wholeness, worthiness, and wellness at the center of their being. In the hopes of making this easier during what can be a challenging time, I’m offering a special on packages of five sessions.

These packages are each valid for one person for one year from date of purchase. It’s possible to mix and match treatments, so there’s no need to decide up front if you desire Reiki and/or massage. This special is available till the end of 2018. Convenient PayPal payments are an option, as are cash, check, or card if you prefer to stop by my office. 

Five sessions for the price of four. That’s a 20% savings!

Five 60 minute sessions = $320 ($80 savings!)

Five 75 minute sessions = $400 ($100 savings!)

Five 90 minute sessions = $480 ($120 savings!)

Five long-distance Reiki sessions = $220 ($55 savings!)

If you’re feeling inspired to spread the peace and joy, you could even use the savings to purchase a gift card for a friend.

Contact me for details or to arrange payment. Or schedule an appointment in the month of December, and we’ll get you set up then.

 

 

 

Reiki for Root Canal, Part 3

Tomorrow I’m scheduled for a root canal. I’ve been preparing for weeks. (See part 1 and part 2 of this dental journey if you wish.) My motivation is two-fold: for the procedure to go as smoothly as possible, and to avoid having to go through this ever again. I’m enlisting all the holistic tools at my disposal to make this a reality.

I continue to use Reiki daily, both for my teeth and jaws, as well as sending it to the procedure itself. Given what I know about trauma, the body’s fight-flight-freeze mechanism, and its physiological responses; my strategy is to promote calmness. Reiki, breathing practices, and yoga are the techniques that come to mind.

I’m also interested in minimizing inflammation, for which I’m using diet, herbs, and aromatherapy. I have propolis and arnica tablets standing by for after the procedure and ibuprofen as a last resort. Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower essence for stress and trauma, will no doubt be a huge help as well.

I was delighted to discover askthedentist.com during my research of holistic support for a root canal. This sight is devoted to functional dentistry. I didn’t even know such a thing existed! There’s tons of information about how to maximize oral health that extends way beyond brushing, flushing, and trips to the dentist. Nutrition is a prime focus as a preventative measure. I ordered a new electric toothbrush and natural toothpaste based on the thorough product research provided.

I’m feeling quite well prepared. My doctor comes with the highest recommendations and I’m doing everything possible on my end to ensure a positive outcome. Naturally massage, plenty of rest, green smoothies and other soft foods, and several book and video distractions will all have a place in my recovery. Taking an active role in my wellness plan (which now thoroughly includes preventing future invasive dental interventions!) has been an empowering process.

I’m ready for my first and last root canal. Bring it on Dr. Lim!

 

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

The more I learn about trauma and its devastating effects, the more I realize that the adage “time heals all wounds” is completely wrong. Not matter how long ago one experienced a traumatic event, if the energy generated at that time has not been released and integrated, it remains in the body. It might hibernate or seem dormant, but it lurks beneath the surface, often creating pain or influencing behavior and emotions from the shadows.

“If you are experiencing strange symptoms that no one seems to be able to explain, they could be arising from a traumatic reaction to a past event that you may not even remember. You are not alone. You are not crazy. There is a rational explanation for what is happening to you. You have not been irreversibly damaged, and it is possible to diminish or even eliminate your symptoms.” Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger

I find this quote from one of the world’s leading experts on trauma to be so helpful. Many of my clients suffer from mysterious symptoms that their doctors are unable to explain. Just because western medicine doesn’t have an answer does not automatically mean that there is none; they just haven’t fully understood the affects of trauma or the awesome power of the body-mind-spirit connection.

I was horrified to hear that a neurologist told a woman experiencing hand tremors that she should see a psychologist because there was nothing physically wrong with her. I have nothing against psychological treatment, but this doctor was implying that she suffered from a mental illness because he was unable to find a diagnosis. I wonder if he would have treated a male patient the same way, but that is a topic for another day.

“Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the “triggering” event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits. The long-term alarming, debilitating, and often bizarre symptoms of PTSD develop when we cannot complete the process of moving in, through and out of the “immobility” or “freezing” state. However, we can thaw by initiating and encouraging our innate drive to return to a state of dynamic equilibrium.” Again from Waking the Tiger

Clearly I am enamored with this book! I believe it offers valuable wisdom in a form accessible to the layperson. Somatic Experiencing is the therapy that has evolved from Levine’s work. While I am not a practitioner of this modality, I have absorbed and integrated much of its philosophy into my therapeutic massage and Reiki practice. Acknowledging the whole person, compassionate listening, nurturing touch, allowing an organic unwinding of tension patterns, and supporting the process of body-mind-spirit integration is the approach that has benefited so many of my clients.

While I have much to learn about healing, for my own journey and to support my clients, what really stands out to me is that trauma requires some form of intervention to be released. This appears to be a physiological fact, according to Levine. It does not simply go away over time. There is no shame in reaching out for help healing a wound, no matter how old, how seemingly insignificant, or how much we might believe it shouldn’t be affecting us anymore.

Please know that whatever terrible experiences you may have endured, you are not broken. Your spirit remains perfect, whole, and complete. Your body and mind can be healed and the residue of any trauma is treatable. There is hope.

Here’s a link to a directory of Somatic Experiencing practitioners.

If you’re interested in exploring if long-distance Reiki, or in person Reiki or Swedish massage for stress and pain relief through body-mind-spirit integration might be right for you, please do contact me to schedule a complementary 15 minute phone consultation.

 

Reiki for Sexual Trauma

Like many Americans, the evidence and aftermath of sexual assault has been on my mind lately. It seems that this type of trauma has touched the lives of most people I know. I’m saddened by the daily #metoo reports I find on social media, and the secrets that have been held for decades that are rising to the surface. Yet, I know that this is how healing begins. I’m finding hope for the future, and intrigued by the power of Reiki to support the process.

sunset hands love woman
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Being saturated with spiritually-guided life-force energy is an amazing strategy to encourage body-mind-spirit balance, to prevent trauma from becoming internalized or a point of self-identification, and to tap into inner resources of intuition and resilience. Reiki can help keep emotions and energy flowing, expressing, releasing, and integrating. It can connect us with our wholeness, beauty, and perfection; which are eternal and rightfully our own despite any experiences which might suggest otherwise.

Compassion and non-judgment are part of the foundation of this practice. As Reiki is given as a gift from the divine, it is never tarnished with blame, or opinions and interpretations of society or the practitioner. It is pure, healing energy that is available to be used as each individual’s higher self deems it is needed.

In addition to being such a beneficial treatment for trauma, Reiki can be administered without any touch. It can be offered from across the room, and received while fully clothed and seated upright if lying down feels too vulnerable. Reiki can even be received from the comfort of one’s own home if this feels more secure, comfortable, or convenient. One of the sacred symbols is a tool for bridging time and space, and allows level 2 practitioners to share healing energy with people who are elsewhere.

If you’re in need of support for healing of sexual trauma, I  encourage you to explore distance Reiki as a viable option. If you’re a Reiki practitioner, I encourage you to join me in offering Reiki to the collective feminine, to be received by those who are suffering and open to accepting energetic healing. If you’re eager to be an agent of support for those of us who are struggling in these difficult times, I encourage you to seek a Reiki teacher for training. I don’t know of any other modality that is completely natural, holistic, can do no harm, complimentary to all other therapies, and so easy to learn.

The only way out is through; let’s help each other along the way.

 

Full Tank

I’m noticing a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life as I begin each day with Reiki. I fill up my tank with healing energy every morning, which gives me the juice I need to honor my value of showing up in every moment with gratitude, kindness, and non-judgment. I’ve become more accustomed to feeling joyful and remembering my wholeness, which allows me to quickly notice when I’m out of alignment.

The moment I begin to blame, criticize, judge, or disapprove of myself or another, I can feel my mood begin to plummet. I recognize this as a warning that I’m leaking my precious life-force energy and disconnecting from my True Self, my sense of purpose, and my divine mission to be a loving presence on this planet. The fuller my tank, the easier it seems to be to notice when I get off track.

The fuller my tank, the more I have to share with those who cross my path. Rather than offering up my last crumb, I’m able to give from the overflow of my ki (life-force energy), knowing it can easily be replenished from an unlimited source. When I’m running low on ki, I’m no good to anyone and my crankiness can only bring others down. Just like the airline attendants have been telling us for decades: put your own mask on first, and then you’ll be better able to assist your neighbors.

Reiki is but one of countless ways to energize myself. I find creative expression and time spent in nature to be almost as uplifting. Yoga, dance, music, prayer, inspirational reading, video chats with my niece and nephews, preparing and enjoying meals made from whole foods (meaning real/unprocessed food, not the store!), connecting with kindred folk, and being of service to my community all contribute to my sense of fullness. So can simply sitting on the porch while enjoying a cup of tea, the birdsong, and a gentle breeze.

It seems to me that it doesn’t matter how we fill up, only that we do it frequently. What I love about Reiki is the ease and simplicity, as well as the fact that it’s always available, no matter where I am, what time it is, or what I’m doing. Anyone can learn Reiki in a short period of time and have access to this healing energy for a lifetime. If you’re interested in experiencing this seemingly magical gift, I’m here to help.

 

Free at Last!

I just finished a session with a client who has been coming for massage monthly for the past two years. When we began, she could barely turn her neck and was experiencing throbbing pain on a daily basis. She works in a high-power, high-stress corporate job that demands long hours sitting at the computer, and isn’t interested in changing that. Today she reported that since her last appointment, she was symptom free for 24 days, felt some tension in the trouble zone for the past four days, but zero pain all month.

Victory!

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. I’m sure she could have had similar results with many other therapists. My intention here is to offer hope to those who endure chronic pain that results from lifestyles or careers that they wish to learn to cope with. In this case, a more ergonomic work station, biweekly yoga classes, and a monthly massage (and beneath all that, the commitment to actually follow through) were all it took to cross the threshold from out-of-balance to close-enough-balance.

I think we all have such a tipping point.

Mine is a daily yoga and Reiki practice, bimonthly massage, and a receiving a monthly Reiki session from a colleague. I’m working with some chronic issues, plus a car-less lifestyle, and a physically demanding job; so my maintenance program needs to be more thorough than most people’s. It’s totally worth it to avoid that irritating point underneath my left scapula or the dull ache in my lower back that have plagued me for decades.

I have another client who has been able to reduce her headaches from three times per week to once or twice per month after getting into a monthly massage routine. And a dentist client who had disturbingly- painful, career- threatening elbow pain and finger numbness who is nearly symptom free.

Managing stress is a huge component of optimizing our health and well-being. Most of us regularly partake of activities or substances that are less than ideal for our bodies. Most of us are pulled in a thousand different directions at a hundred miles an hour, coasting on too little sleep. We have overstimulated fight, flight, or freeze responses and repetitive movement patterns that create wear and tear on our joints. Rather than succumbing to the natural results of these imbalances, we can take action to counteract them.

It’s never too late to start returning to wellness. Every journey begins with the first step.