I was having an acupuncture treatment once for some back pain issues I was experiencing at the time. As always I was fascinated by all the different points the needles were going in, most of them nowhere near my back. I was still studying my diploma of massage, so I was gaining a good base understanding about my body and was becoming more and more aware of what was going on. When left to chill out with my needles I started to zone out as normal. As I drifted in and out of awareness, I started to notice that I was holding on to tension in some of the spots the needles were placed, particularly around my glutes, legs and arms. “Why am I doing that?” I thought to myself, “I’m laying flat on a table, there is no reason to be holding my muscles so tight!” I kid you not, in the zone out, stoned like state that I was in, I started singing that song ‘let it gooooo, let it gooooooooo” and physically releasing the muscles I had no idea that I had been holding on to. Acupuncture – brilliant stuff!
Fast forward a few months, I’d finished my studies and was out in the real world treating my own clients with their own issues and I starting noticing similar patterns, funnily enough beginning with my mother. I love my mother, she is the most awesome person in the world, but when I was massaging her I could not get her to relax, particularly her arms and legs. Now usually if I give the limb a little shake, I can get the client to release and carry on with what I’m doing, but with my mum she just didn’t seem to take the hint. “Just relax your arm” I told her. “I’m trying!” she replied. I began to notice it more in other clients and would find it incredible that we could be 45-50 minutes into a massage and they were still holding their arms and hands rigid while I’m trying to massage. I’m doing my best work here people, why haven’t you relaxed yet?? One day I realised that these people had not yet had a zoned out acupuncture epiphany that I had and were actually not able to mentally or physically relax.
We know that the effect of long term stress on the musculoskeletal system is constant muscle tension and that massage can help to reduce this by palpating and manipulating the soft tissue and increasing blood flow to the area. We have also all, at some time, experienced the feeling of having a weight lifted off our shoulders which is the muscles in our neck and shoulders physically releasing even though we didn’t know we were holding them tight. So the trick then is to recognise that you’re holding your body in tension and know what releasing that tension actually feels like. Massage can of course help that and I have even been working with some clients who have anxiety disorders to help them physically and mentally let go or their tension. Meditation is also good for this as it puts the body in a state of relaxation and empties your mind enough that you can identify areas of tension. So next time you have a moment, have a bit of mental look around your body and see what exactly it is your holding on to. You may get an epiphany of your own!
To help you with your muscle tension or help with any form of anxiety you may experience contact our Remedial Massage Therapist Jo Grainger at HealthSpace Brookvale & Lane Cove.