If you have been on my table, you have heard me say “The key to the back is the front.” It is a principle that underwrites my work and gives it its effectiveness. It underwrites how I work because it is how your body works. And it is the basis for the stretches of self-care I teach you for staying ahead of tension in the first place.
It’s all posture! For better or worse. Usually worse. There’s text neck, and that’s the name doctors themselves have given it! Before that, there was simply chronic computer posture. Long before even that, there was the worsening posture from feeling overwhelmed and trapped in there never being enough time. Now it’s all of the above, exacerbated. We model poor posture to our children. They’re caught up in the angst of our larger world and their own generational angst, too. Innocence has its place. Comportment and beautiful posture — which are attitudes first — are not taught in our homes, let alone our schools as they once were. We’re frogs in the hot water together.
My reason for writing this is to open your eyes to what causes what in your body, specifically stress. What underlies and underwrites your stress so that, seeing this, you can see better options in nipping stress in the bud and maybe even preempting it all together. Freedom!
The key to easing neck and shoulder tightness and pain is relaxing and lengthening the postural muscles of the front of your shoulders, chest, and neck. Your shoulders are rolled forward, and your neck is pulled forward and down. The muscles in your back have no choice but to be pulled forward. They’re overstretched and in pain from trying their best to pull you back upright. But though they may be what hurts, your neck and shoulder muscles are not the problem. The muscles in the front are what have you pulled forward and are what must be corrected. We relax and lengthen the muscles in the front so your neck and shoulders can lie back again, and the muscles in your neck and shoulders can get a break.
So that’s what my treatment does. Relaxes those muscles in the front and returns them to their resting length, so your neck and shoulders can naturally go back and down where they would rather be.
Working simultaneously at deeper levels, we easing the nerve patterns of tension in your muscles, and we literally teach your neck and shoulders to lie back on their own. We accomplish this with the isometrics and deep breathing of Orthopedic Massage, and with Polarity Therapy, easing the energy and nerve patterns of tension. May take a second or third treatment, but that’s what we’ll do.
(A key to softening and preempting low back tightness and pain, is relaxing and lengthening your deep abdominal, hip flexor muscles.)
Here’s where it gets good. Your understanding this will help you act ahead of your own recurring tension. The same principle — the key to the back is the front — holds true at every level of your body. It’s true in your muscles, it’s true in your nervous system, and it’s true in your body’s vital energy. It starts subtly and quietly in your energy field, which becomes stress in your nervous system, which cannot not become tension in your muscles. Cause and effect, as below, so above.
Knowing this puts you in the driver’s seat. Knowing what underwrites what, treating at that level of understanding, and teaching you to see in that way, is what gives you longer-lasting benefit from my work and will let you be better at self-care and prevention.
Let’s look deeper into your make-up to see the real origins of muscle tension. Your shoulders don’t get tight and ride up to your ears because they wake up one morning, asking each other how things would look from a higher elevation and so, just for kicks, rise up to your ears. No. Your shoulders rise up to your ears, because something has happened which makes you feel overwhelmed or in some way in danger. An “uh-oh!” moment. Your shoulders rise up around your neck to protect your nervous system — because, as your body sees it, your very existence has been threatened. Your nervous system, which starts in your brain stem, must be protected at all cost. So your upper-body muscles rally in protection. Tightening is how they rally to protect. Muscles tighten up because they’re doing their job to protect you.
Next time your muscles are tight, thank them for having your back. Look to understand, reframe, and ease the danger your muscles are seeing; then take care of them.
Now let’s go finally to the deepest level in your make-up, to the deepest level of understanding what holds you in muscle tension. To your energy field, the living blueprint of health within you, where your attitudes, stories, and drama hold sway and run your show.
In the energy model, the front of your body is the home of your sensory nervous currents, and the back of your body is the home of your motor nervous currents. Sensory: From the front of you, through your five senses, you sense or perceive what life is sending your way. More even than that, it is from the front that you put your spin on what’s happening. It’s your spin — the story you tell yourself about what’s happening — that determines how you’ll react or respond. THEN from the back of you, you move forward into action in response, even if you choose no action. It’s still from the back forward that you suppress your response or simply, better yet, do not engage.
This is what the energy treatment gives you. Eases stress’s hold on you. Eases or collapses the stress in your nervous system that keeps the pattern of tension in place. When we ease the nervous system piece, your neck and shoulders are then free to lie back on their own. I’ll teach you stretches to keep the benefit going on your own, or to nip tension in the bud when it starts to arise.
Here’s the important thing for you to get in all this. Know what’s causing what. You neck and shoulders hurt and are tight, because of poor posture. The key is to open your posture. But chronic poor posture is caused by stress and it’s “uh-oh” response in your nervous system. Taking time-out in the midst of things to breathe deeply and stretch, are keys to easing your nervous system. And shifting your energy itself to soften or collapse the stories you tell yourself about your “stressors” is finally key to preempting stress and tension all together in the first place.
In the end — and this can be a tough one to get — it’s not the events and circumstances in your life — your “stressors,” that stress you out and cause you tension. Not at all. It’s the stories you tell yourself about those events and circumstances that flip your switch or make you feel helpless and overwhelmed. This can be a tough one to get, until the lights go on, and getting it leads to freedom. In treating your energy field, we shift your relationship with your own stories, with stress itself, so they lose their hold on you. You’ll see yourself and everything more clearly. Freedom.
Muscle tension is the last piece in the puzzle. It’s just the most visible and gets all the attention. But the whole matter of stress and tension is deeper, two more levels down. We re-frame from the ground up, from the energy field up, and your muscles cannot not let go. What stressed you out only this morning, need no more. And it needn’t take long to achieve this. You’ll see yourself
Larry Witzleben, LMT
Orthopedic Massage – Polarity Therapy
A Whole-Body Reset!