Inspired by my daughter for this blog as after visiting an opticians and doctors to see why my daughter is experiencing daily headaches, coloured shapes in front of her eyes and watery eyes with cold like symptoms, I am told not only is she suffering with Sinusitis but is incredibly tense in her neck and shoulders. The doctor asked if I had considered taking her to an Osteopath – if I’m into that kind of thing!

I felt a bit stumped and said quietly, “I massage for a living”. She smiled knowingly at me that I felt so embarrassed having not offered massage to my daughter, it’s like a bank manager with a daughter who’s in debt or a doctor with a daughter who’s unwell but doesn’t know why.

This struck me quite firmly and made me think how much effort I put into wellbeing for others hence the launch of this very Better Wellbeing System yet, I could do so much more for us at home with a regular massage for my children!

Also, this week as I begin to massage two clients and attempt to stretch their neck, I find their whole body comes with it! It was like pulling a tight elastic band up through the body. There was absolutely no freedom in the neck, both were experiencing headaches but yet both of which were not mentioned during consultation – how many of us tolerate this kind of discomfort and think its normal?

There’s a muscle that pings out in my head amongst the world of A & P and that is Splenius Capitis and Splenius Cervicus will come into the conversation by its side as they buddy up in this area.

The Splenius Capitus muscle stems from the mid-base of the skull and reaches down to attach itself to the spine at the top of your shoulder blades. Formally, its origin is found within the Nuchal Ligament and spinous process C7-T3 the T3 point then picks up the origin of the Splenius Cervicus the Capitus inserts at the mastoid process of the Temporal bone and lateral 3rd of superior nuchal line while the Cervicus inserts at the Transverse process which is C1-C3. They are both responsible for the actions of extending and rotating to the same side but, the Capitus does this for the head while the Cervicus does it for the neck.

Sterno-Cleido Mastoid is quite the culprit of tension and freedom of movement too. It originates in two places 1) Manubrium and 2) Medial 3rd of clavicle while inserting at the mastoid process of the temporal bone and lateral half of superior nuchal line. So, another link to the occipitals and why massaging here is vital for stress relief.

As a Hydrotherm Practitioner and Ambassador Trainer you know there are issues in this spot when you begin massaging at the base of the skull – amazing acupressure release points! Clients will often mention how much release they feel when this area is touched. It’s a bit of a hotspot to release tension and I will always massage this area as a gage of how tense this point is for the client and also what affects it is having on the rest of the body. The occipital area at the base of the skull consists of what feel like 5 circular grooves, that a therapists fingers can reach into and apply acupressure motions at. When there is tension it pulses like a rapid heartbeat and the aim is to slow the pulsing down as you release it gradually.

There’s another surprising link to mention and this is when fascia comes into the conversation. The industry is showing real commitment to the impact this fibrous tissue has on our bodies. It was thought just to simply cover the muscles but I can share a personal experience that I had only yesterday. I visited a sports therapist with overworked pectoral muscles that were pulling my shoulder forward, in addition I had emotional discomfort in my Psoas and tight hamstrings. Each time these points were massaged it had impact at all stations and not just at the point of being treated. But, the most extraordinary was while my occipitals and temporalis were being manipulated my right shoulder released to the couch, ‘magic’ the therapist exclaims! There is nothing better than when writing a piece of work like this you experience such a personal reassuring moment for mentioning something that you have seen on others for years.

The author Thomas W. Myers explores fascia further in a wonderful book called Anatomy Trains.

When you read the A & P above you can see how intertwined muscles become in the body and why needing to be untangled from it at times is essential to reduce symptoms such as, headaches and restriction of movement in the upper body – triggers such as driving, computers, whiplash, sports injuries to name a few.

From here I want to ping down to the lower back, why you might ask? Well, as well as the fascia link, my experience as a Hydrotherm Practitioner since 1996 and through my studies with Hydrotherm I feel the link every time I massage. There’s a simple body rocking motion that we perform and as the client is supine (laying face up) we can see how the body moves, or is limited to move.

Each time the tension is noticed at one end, a mere glance to the other end shows the link. Hydrotherm really extends your written consultation form into a physical one allowing you to ask questions about your physical observations. When I find tension at either point I will ask about headaches and lower back discomfort and the answer is always yes and then they look around for my crystal ball, how did I know that!? There are links to those who have had a lumbar puncture or received an epidural during labour/delivery but it can also be simply explained by pressure at one end of the spine travelling to the other end, the ends are the most vulnerable as the connection between the two is a spinal chord, the ends can reach no further! The longer the tension is left untreated the more likely the rest of the back will have a piece of the achy action!

The same happens the other way round as discussed in my previous blog “Leg massage to ease back pain?”

So, lets head back to the upper back and in particular to the Trapezius and the Levator Scapulae, often mistaken for being one of the same! The Trapezius muscle forms a diamond shape on the upper back, looks like one of the butterfly paint pictures you create as a kid, when you paint on one side, fold and print the mirror image beside it! You’ll know when this muscle is weak and thats when you show difficulty holding your arms out to the side and can therefore be very restrictive. These muscles are good friends with Levator Scapulae, Rhomboids and even Sterno-Cleido Mastoid so it is important to be mindful of this when massaging a client. You can split the Trapezius into 3; upper, middle and lower to break down its responsibilities. Action in the upper section is to laterally flex the head and neck and adduct and rotate the scapula. The middle also adducts but makes a slight attempt to lift the scapula (hence the need for Levator Scapulae). The lower section rotates scapula and supports the spine. Its origin is found at the base of the skull, something most therapists forget it sticks with the spine till C7 then onto the spinous processes of T1-T12. It then inserts out to the lateral third of clavicle process and the spine of the scapula.

As mentioned above the Rhomboids come to play too they think back tension is a game huh!? Its that bit between the shoulder blades that sometimes burns with achiness, it is responsible for pulling the scapula towards the spine, originating at C7 and in the thoracic area T1-T5 and inserts on the medial border of the scapula. Anyone who massages for a living will experience tension build up in this area as do those in many other professions.

Little Levator is a muscle thats brought to attention in body builders, it’s like bringing a hidden muscle to attention! Its main role is to elevate the scapula but does also flex and rotate the cervical spine and yet again the origin is within the neck C1-C4 and inserts at the top of the scapula – the neck seems so small with a lot of muscle traffic!

Take it away!

What I would like you to take away from this blog is the appreciation of how connected the body is and that though you might have an achy, rounded shoulder the relief might be gained by treating elsewhere on the body. Treat every client holistically and you will achieve great results.