Learn How To Move Freely With Less PainHeidi Hadley
In this week’s blog we are going to look at how our modern day lifestyle has contributed towards ridigity and pain in our muscles and joints.
Creatures of habit
Consider what you do on a daily basis. We are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. You may sit on a train or other modes of transport, possibly looking down at your phone or book. You may sit at a desk most of the day. You may stand at your desk with your head jutting forward to look at the monitor. You may travel home the same way, seated or standing, possibly loading weight through one leg more than the other. All of this is happening subconsciously. You may get home and decide to exercise. It may be your favourite sport which you regularly do. Maybe it’s running, maybe cycling, maybe swimming. The feeling of endorphins makes you feel alive and boosts your mood. However stiffness and tightness begin to appear either during the activity or afterwards. You are surprised because you are moving your body and feeling good. However your amazing brain is humming along in the background holding certain muscles tight. Why would this be? Let me explain.
Within your muscles are sensors which are detecting their length and tone all the time. If your regular posture involves rolling your shoulders forward such as at a desk, reading a book, looking at your mobile device, riding a bike, sewing, lifting weights or running, the sensors will adapt and change to a ‘new normal.’ At the end of your day when you go to sleep the sensors within the motor nerves, within your muscles, always reset to zero percent. This means in the morning, your motor nerves know they have 100% free range of muscle use to move about. However, the other sensors within your muscles (sensory nerves) are on alert all the time, so overnight they do not reset to 0%. Instead they continue to hold the tension within the muscle(s). This creates a discrepancy in the morning as you get out of bed. As you wake, you may want to stand up immediately, however as you begin to do so, you feel a tug or tightness within your muscles, that’s your sensory nerve sensors telling you “no you can’t go any further, this is your range.” The discrepancy occurs because the motor and sensory nerves in your muscles are saying different things to your brain. The motor nerves are saying “yes you can move.” However your sensory nerves are saying “no, this is as far as you can go.” So why are their messages to your brain so different?
Your body keeps a score
Consider what has happening over the years in your life. Consider the good and the not so good times. Consider the injuries, sprains, strains and repetitive activities you have practiced. These events keep a score within your body, often without your awareness, subconsciously.
Let’s consider how a score is kept over the years with the following example.
In this situation this person is female, let’s call her Kayla.
Kayla grows up in a loving family and loves sports. Over the years she is involved in sports and very outgoing. From time to time she 'twinges' her back but bounces back quickly. On one occasion she was running and landed awkwardly on her ankle. She had to stop running for a while as her sprained ankle healed. In the meantime she started lifting weights whilst her ankle healed.
During this time she started suffering with bullying at school. This created panic attacks and a withdrawing of herself from her friends, creating a social anxiety. She continued to keep herself busy with her gym sessions and then resumed her running.
As the years progressed, Kayla enjoyed her sports and found a fulfilling career. She had 2 children and was good at multi tasking as she carried one child on her hip, getting on with her every day activities. She decided to return to running but found her hip and back pain would flare up. So she decided to take up cycling. This was great because it allowed her to feel the endorphins with a good cardio workout but without the pressure on her hip and back. She continued to cycle for years.
Kayla’s children were now at high school and she was able to resume her career. The stress of work and constantly aiming to strike a work/life balance created tension and broken sleep patterns. She continued to exercise but found that she was not as resilient as she use to be. Her injuries seemed to take longer to heal and they appeared to be in the same area every time.
She decided to see a health professional who tells her she needs to strengthen her core because it is weak. So she follows a health regime which includes strengthening her core. After several months she finds her pain has actually increased and her range of movement has become limited. So she decides to join stretching classes, only to find it is very uncomfortable and her muscles often cramp and spasm as she stretches. However she perseveres and breathes through her stretches. Often she felt aches and pains in her hips and back and assumed it meant she had had a 'good stretch session.' However over time her pain and rigidity increased further, causing her to take anti inflammatory medication from time to time. From being a very busy and active person, she started to feel frustrated because she was unable to move her body as much. She also felt despondent when she was told her muscles needed strengthening. She had been very strong and fit for years. It just doesn’t make sense.
Would you like to know why this all happened?
Let’s break it down.
Firstly when Kayla was younger, her brain was soaking up all these postures and movement patterns. They were varied. When she had an injury, her brain would communicate to her muscles and shorten certain muscles to adapt how she moved, allowing her injured side to heal. For instance, when she rolled over on her ankle whilst running, her brain would tell the waist muscles on her injured side to shorten, in order to take weight off that side. This would create a hip hitch. After the ankle had healed, the sensors within the waist muscles continue to hold tension subconsciously. Unaware to Kayla, this is creating a unequal weight transfer through her hips, knees, ankles and feet. Plus her muscles along her back to her neck will also be impacted.
The stress of bullying created a subconscious stress posture. It is triggered from the subconscious part of the brain known as the brainstem. We cannot remove these stress postures. They are reflexes, which means they are there for our protection. They will appear all the time, however if we are unaware that we are being held captive to these stress postures with very tight muscles, we continue to live in a tense, tight body. In this case, her stress response caused her tail bone to tuck up and under and for her ribs to draw down towards her pelvis, creating a foetal or rounded shoulder appearance. This is a subconscious posture associated with the fight/flight/feign stress response. This created a posture which caused Kayla to exhibit rounded shoulders, her bottom was tucked under and her head jutted forward.
With her office work, the sensors within her muscles would have adapted and created a ‘new normal’ which meant the muscles through the front of her torso were shortening and accentuating her rounded shoulders, head jutting forward and her tail bone tucked under.
Carrying children on one hip would also create issues. She may have found that the hip which was already subconsciously contracted from her injury years ago, was comfortable to carry her child on, further amplifying the tension in her waist muscles. However she may have opted for the other side, resulting in tension building on that side, generating tension and tightness through both hips.
Choosing to change from running to cycling made sense to Kayla because of her back and hip issues. However with the sensors within her muscles holding a large percentage of her fibres subconsciously contracted, her pain and stiffness increased. This is because she is continuing to shorten muscles through the front of her torso, which she has been created from subconscious stress responses and sitting or standing at her desk, leaning forward. Her pedal stroke had become affected because the waist muscles through one side were tighter and creating less power. So once again, going back into the tight, tense muscle patterns her brain had created over time and which reappeared when she was stressed and tired.
By strengthening her core, she is simply increasing the tension through her ‘six pack’ muscle which is directly affected and shortens during stressful periods of her life. Her brain knows how to tighten, it doesn’t know how to lengthen and release. So when she starts stretching, pain appears in the form of muscle cramp, spasm and joint. This is because the belly of her muscle is subconsciously held tight. The discomfort felt is created by the stretch reflex. This is when the muscles are being taken beyond their natural range of movement. When it passes that range, the muscles tighten to protect them self from over stretching or tearing. Her brain tells the belly of the muscle to stay contracted. No amount of will power, deep breathing and stretching will release subcortical or subconscious muscle tension.
Pandiculate muscle tension away!
This scenario is what I see every day. You have injuries, stress and other factors which your body keeps a score of over the years. Everything is being registered and interpreted in your brain. As a result of this, the sensors within your muscles translate information back to your brain, which in turn tells the motor nerves within your muscle to contract or release. However in many cases such as the fictitious account above, habituation creates muscle pain and limited mobility for people.
Habituation is where the same movements and postures are held regularly, causing the sensors within the muscles to adapt and change to a 'new normal.'
Due to habituation, the percentage of available muscle can become less over time, as a large percentage becomes subcortically or subconsciously contracted.
When you pandiculate, you arouse the sensory motor portions of your brain.
Pandiculation is a 3 step process which involves the following:
1)Contraction of the muscles
When we contract muscles within a pandiculation, we arouse and excite the areas of the brain which are involved in this area of the body. When we slowly release the contraction, we are allowing your brain to remember how it feels to consciously release a tense muscle. When we completely rest, we allow your brain to soak up all this information and notice what it is like to truly relax.
Pandiculation get to the ROOT CAUSE of muscle tension and tightness by resetting the sensors within the muscles. At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned how the motor and sensory nerves within the muscles can at time no longer work together efficiently. The motor nerves thinks there is 100% free range whereas the sensory nerves are holding a percentage of the muscle subcortically or subconsciously contracted. When we pandiculate, we bring both the sensory and motor nerves into the action, allowing them to speak the same language again. They both work within the full range of the muscle again.
Would you like to reduce pain, improve posture and increase mobility? Allow me to teach you how to apply the principles and techniques of pandiculation in the comfort of your own home. You will realise there is more to it than movement because anybody can copy movements off a TV monitor. I will teach you how mindfulness, mindset and movement complement each other. As a qualified teacher in adult education, it is always important to teach people why they are doing something and the benefits they will gain. You will receive plenty of information within the online program and I am currently uploading new material. From your feedback I am creating an effective way for you to practice somatics with specific cues which will enhance your learning process. That is the fantastic part of creating this program for you, you drive it. If you want something, I will create it. By signing in to The Total Somatics Online Program, you receive fresh up to date material on a regular basis which can be accessed anywhere around the world, in the privacy of your own home, at a time that suits you.
I can’t wait for you to join the ever growing number of clients around the world finding The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program is helping them to reduce pain, improve posture, increase mobility and develop mindfulness.
I look forward to sharing this amazing work with you.
Heidi Hadley xx