Bodywork and Cellular Memory

Everyday activities such as dancing and exercise routines, riding a bike, playing an instrument, and even handwriting are made automatic with muscle memory. Repetition helps to impress the memory of activities into our muscles, brains, and central nervous system. Other events which create muscle memory are accidents and physical and emotional trauma.

“Everything we do and everything that happens to us and around us affects the nervous system, including the brain and the muscles enervated by each experience.” Muscle memory is associated with motor learning, and is also related to cellular memory. The premise of all three types of memory is that the cells of the body hold the memory of our experiences. In bodywork, we call this the body-mind connection.

I usually give an example of a person sitting at their desk in an office, and their angry-looking boss is walking toward them. I will ask my client what emotions and physical symptoms they think the person is experiencing. The replies are usually anything from sweating hands, dry throat, nervous stomach, fear, and anxiety. Then I say that the boss walks past them. All those symptoms are the mind creating physical reactions in the body.

When the body experiences trauma, a reaction occurs within the body-mind which involves the autonomic nervous system. The response to the trauma is either fight, flight, or freeze. This heightened state of awareness is sometimes trapped in the body creating stress which lasts much longer than the actual injury. Unless the trauma, whether physical or emotional, is addressed soon after the event, it can create Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as chronic pain.

The pain can be related to the area of the injury or to other areas of the body. The brain keeps a memory of the trauma in the subconscious mind. “The smells, the sounds, the tastes, the textures, the visuals- all the senses are stimulated during a trauma and stored to form a kind of emotional picture within the brain.”

Body position is also key in bringing forth the memory of old traumas. I have experienced a few people reliving accidents on my massage table. One woman had a car accident where her head hit the windshield, and then was thrown backward and her head hit the side window. During her bodywork session, she sat up, threw her body forward, and then came back and her head moved sideways. When these memories are brought into the conscious mind stress and pain can be alleviated. Severe trauma is not dissipated overnight but over time. Freeing the body of the memories of trauma can greatly improve health, pain relief, and well-being.

Treating Fibromyalgia with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views Fibromyalgia (FMS) as a complex syndrome. It can consist of a combination of several different syndromes depending on the origin and specific symptoms of the person.

FMS is a disease that predominantly targets women aged 20 – 50 and creates a lot of pain and suffering. This chronic condition was often misunderstood by allopathic medicine physicians.

The symptoms of FMS can include generalized body pain, muscle stiffness, and fatigue. Symptoms are usually worse in the morning and after exercise. The pain is described as deep, shooting, throbbing, burning, or stabbing with certain tender spots. FMS is not a progressive or degenerative disease.

People also report chronic fatigue. Symptoms can also include poor sleep, numbness, headaches, tingling, fuzzy thinking, sensitivity to light or noise, and dizziness. Other symptoms can include irritable bowel syndrome, blurred vision, depression, cold extremities, and palpitations to name a few.

Western medicine does not have a lot to offer people who suffer from FMS aside from pain meds (which are not always effective) and sleeping aides. According to TCM disease theory the signs and symptoms of FMS are primarily due to a dysfunction of the liver and spleen.

Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of chi in the body. The liver is also strongly influenced by the emotions of anger, frustration, and resentment, which can block the chi or energy flow. This blockage can overflow into the spleen and impair the spleen’s ability to make blood resulting in a blood deficiency.

The spleen can also be impaired by poor eating habits (eating fried or raw foods, eating on the run, excessive stress, overthinking, and prolonged exposure to dampness. A weak spleen will produce dampness in the body. This condition will negatively affect the body’s ability to digest food and create stagnation.

Treatment of FMS consists of:

  • A bland diet, limiting simple carbs (sweets, fruits and milk products, soft drinks)
  • Acupuncture and acupressure to relieve blockages
  • Herbs and supplements
  • Physical activity, go slowly but have some activity every day.

Since each person is different it is important to be under the care of a licensed acupuncturist.

Boosting Your Immune System with Acupressure

We live in stressful times. Many people are very concerned about their health especially with the winter season ahead of us. This is the perfect time to boost your body’s natural defense against disease, your immune system. When our immune system is strong, we are protected from colds and flu, so it is important to support it at this time.

The factors that weaken our immune system are:

stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. Chronic stress and anxiety will increase the body’s cortisol level and reduce the production of prostaglandin in the body. Prostaglandin supports healthy immune functioning.

Lack of sleep interferes with the body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate itself. If the body is unable to renew itself, the production of white blood cells is reduced. Research supports getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night to stay healthy.

Sitting in front of a computer for hours without any exercise program reduces blood flow throughout the body which will reduce the flow of antibodies that battle infections. Likewise, a diet which has mainly processed and junk food, high in sugar and preservatives impairs the ability of the white blood cells to fight bacterial infections.

Finally, a sedentary lifestyle and junk food over time will create obesity. Obesity is one of the most prevalent health conditions of our time. This condition creates a lot of inflammation and greatly taxes the ability of the immune system to fight disease.

Acupressure and acupuncture support the immune system by balancing the body’s natural energy or chi and promoting a state of deep relaxation in which the body can release stress. When our stress is reduced, we can rest more easily and sleep more soundly.

When our Chi is flowing freely, symptoms such as headaches, backaches, indigestion, and general aches and pains are diminished. Studies on acupuncture have shown it can boost the functions of the immune system to secrete antibodies to fight against germs and viruses. Acupressure can also help improve immune function.

A few pressure points that help to improve immune function are:

Great Ravine– located between the highest point of the inner ankle bone and the Achilles tendon. You press into the point toward the ankle bone.

Great Rushing– this is located on the top of the foot, in the webbing between the big and second toes. It is a liver point, and you press in and up toward the leg. It helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, and can relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, and lower back pain.

The Psychological Aspect of the Bladder Meridian

The Bladder Meridian is the longest energy pathway in the body and the most influential since it passes through all the other meridians. As you can see the Bladder Meridian begins at the inner corner of the eye and runs the length of the back of the body and ends at the small toe.

The functional aspect of the bladder is to store and eliminate urinary waste passed down from the kidneys, but it also is closely related to the functions and balance of the autonomic nervous system. The Bladder Meridian runs the length of the spine with two parallel branches on each side of the spinal column. These four branches of bladder energy greatly influence the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system, which regulates all the basic, vital body functions. Having energy balanced along the spine can alleviate tension and pain and promote deep relaxation.

The stress of modern life many times creates an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which promotes constant anxiety and fear. This can be accompanied by tension and discomfort along the spine. This tension if chronic activates a constant fight or flight response, depletes our adrenals, and weakens the immune system.

Some symptoms of bladder imbalance are:

  • Lack of decision-making capability.
  • Habitual fear
  • Resentment
  • Jealousy
  • Anger, anxiety, suspicion
  • Holding on to long-standing grudges

The 24-Hour Body Clock of Chinese Medicine

24 Hour Body Clock of Chinese MedicineEvery so often I like to revisit this topic. It’s very helpful information and can bring awareness to the problem of disturbed sleep which is of interest to just about everyone. The 24-hour body clock of Chinese Medicine is a representation of the movement of energy through the body’s meridians (energy pathways) and organs in a 24-hour period. Every two hours the energy is strongest in a particular meridian and organ within the body.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), almost all our body functions are linked to a specific time on our internal clock. “This is the time when that particular organ and its related meridians are said to be most energized and working hardest, affecting everything from your emotions to your productivity.” The Chinese believe that to achieve optimum health we need to be in harmony with our internal and external environment.

When our energy is blocked or imbalanced; we experience physical symptoms. If we wake at the same time every night with insomnia; the energy most active at that time is probably blocked.

The best time for bed is between 10 and 11 pm. Gallbladder meridian is most active between 11pm – 1am. Its function is to excrete bile and digest healthy fats and emotionally it’s associated with decision making. “If you’re not resting by 11pm, you could have issues with digesting fats and the emotional components of decision making.”

Here’s the list:

  • 1-3am – organ – liver, activity- deep sleep and dreaming, emotions- anger, frustration, anxiety. A balanced liver keeps these emotions in check.
  • 3-5am – organ- lung, activity -sleeping and gentle breathing, emotions- grief and sadness
  • 5-7am – organ- large intestine, activity-waking and releasing, emotions- releasing that which no longer serves us. A glass of water is a good start to the day
  • 7-9am – organ-stomach, activity-eating and nourishing, emotions being processed- disgust or despair. Having a warming, nutritious breakfast is best.
  • 9-11am – organ-spleen-pancreas, activity-thinking and working, emotions-worry
  • 11am-1pm – organ- heart, actively engaging with friends and eating, emotions- joy or frightful sadness
  • 1-3pm – organ-small intestine, activity-separating useful from useless, organizing, emotions processed- insecurity
  • 3-5pm – organ- bladder, action-reserving and storing, emotion-irritation, moving internal energy. Energy can dip at this time of day. Snacking on something salty will help the energy level.
  • 5-7pm – organ- kidney, activity-replenishing vital energy, emotion-fear
  • 7-9pm – organ-pericardium, activity-emotional support, emotions- excessive euphoria and compassion. Focus on spending quality time with loved ones and self-care.
  • 9-11pm – organ-triple warmer (metabolism, blood vessels), activity-relaxing and hydrating, emotions-hopelessness, confusion
  • 11pm – 1am – organ-gallbladder, action-sleeping and regenerating, emotions being processed-indecisiveness and resentment.

Keeping your energy balanced will improve body, mind, and spirit.

Myofascial Release and Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD)

Muscle Tension DysphoniaMuscle Tension Dysphonia is a voice disorder which occurs when the muscles around the voice box are so tight that the quality and volume of the voice are impaired. This condition can be the result of illness (laryngitis) overuse, stress or other conditions. It may continue even after laryngitis is gone.

Some symptoms of MTD on the voice include

  • Breathy quality
  • Hoarseness
  • Raspyness
  • Rough or weak voice
  • Strained, squeezed tight or tense voice
  • Pain or tightness when speaking or singing

The voice may also completely cut out or fade away the longer one is speaking or singing. Tight muscles in the throat create a restricted range of motion and reduced volume and quality of voice. Other changes that can occur are an elevated voice box and hyoid bone, muscle imbalances and poor posture. Myofascial Release is very effective in treating MTD. Utilizing the gentle sustained pressure of myofascial release on the fascial restrictions and tight muscles of the neck and torso will help to release and elongate the muscles. Myofascial release will also improve range of motion, posture and diminish pain. Treatment plan will usually involve once week treatment with stretching exercises for home for a period of 8 weeks or so. Core muscle exercises and stress reduction are also important in treatment.

Sciatica Pain and Gall Bladder Meridian

The Mayo Clinic definition of sciatica from August, 2015 states that it is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg ending just below the knee. There are two types of sciatica: acute (caused by recent injury) and chronic (recurring). Most people who experience sciatica will usually have pain on one side of their body.

Though there are many causes for sciatica, from slipped or herniated discs to infections or injuries, in many cases there is no immediately obvious cause. Sciatica is a symptom not a condition; anything that irritates the sciatic nerve can bring about this symptom.

In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain is created by blockages (stagnation) in a person’s chi (energy) and blood. When the body’s energy is flowing freely, we are pain free. Most times when I treat sciatica I will work along the gall bladder meridian which flows exactly through the path of the sciatic pain. Sometimes the bladder meridian will also be involved. The bladder meridian travels down the back parallel to the spine, through the center of the buttocks, through the center of the back of the thigh and lower leg to the lateral side of ankle ending in the fifth toe.

When we look at these two meridians from the bodymind connection we know that Gall Bladder is associated with decision making and every day stress. In today’s society there’s plenty of stress to navigate each day. The Bladder is associated with the amount of rest we get each day and also with Kidney energy. We can see how long stressful days and inadequate rest can create an imbalance (blockage) in these meridians. The solutions: get adequate rest, have your energy balanced, exercise, especially stretching.